In Situ translates roughly to ‘in place,’ and an art show in Mississauga at an abandoned factory had Humber students drawing inspiration from the history of the area.
Second-year students from Humber Lakeshore’s Visual and Digital Arts (VADA) program showcased their projects as part of a new, experimental course called Special Topics in Contemporary Art.
The partnership between In Situ and the Small Arms Society was formed around the development of the course, which allowed students up to one month to create unique projects with real-world, applied research opportunities in groups of four or five.
The gallery was held in the Small Arms Building, which is a refurbished facility that once produced weapons for Allied soldiers during the Second World War, but is now a creative hub on Lakeshore Road East.
Cole Swanson, professor and program coordinator for Humber’s Art Foundation, said students were introduced to the site, connected with research resources, and then facilitated on-site working sessions to create dynamic artworks for the In Situ festival.
“This course represents the unique direction that Humber art programming is engaging with respect to a challenging, and experiential approach to applied research in the visual arts,” Swanson said.
Swanson also hired Sharlene Bamboat, a Toronto-based artist who works predominantly in film, video and installation, to collaborate with the students on their site-specific art installations.
She said the event could not have come at a better time for the students, and they worked extremely hard with the space they were given.
“It’s really hard, practically, to make an artwork in this space,” Bamboat said. “It’s raw brick everywhere, it’s super cold. When we came here, nails were sticking out of the walls, broken glass everywhere.
“It happens a lot, artists get thrown into spaces and they’re told to make work in this magical space,” she continue.
The hardship of the artists parallels the work done inside the building in the 40’s. Bamboat got the students to think of that history and how they could invoke it within the space they were given.
One student in particular created one of the larger murals in the main facility that explores the roles of women workers in the war effort.
Moises Frank, a second-year VADA student, grew up in Hamilton throwing graffiti on walls and abandoned buildings. By the time he was 16, he knew this was what he wanted to do when he did a piece for a dentist’s office at Dundas and Bathurst Streets in Toronto.
Frank said he values education, since not everyone has access to it. He said he made enough money through his art to pay for his schooling.
“Growing up in Hamilton, I would paint in abandoned buildings all the time,” Frank said. “This was my first time doing it legally, which was so different. Like I would come, there’s coffee and snacks and a ladder, not scared, just chill all day and paint.
“It’s really a dream come true.”
He intended on depicting Rosie the Riveter on his mural, a cultural icon of the United States representing American women who worked in factories and shipyards during the Second World War.
But Frank discovered through his research that there is a Canadian version of Rosie.
Veronica Foster, known as Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl, worked in a Toronto factory making Bren machine guns. She was part of the almost one million women who worked in Canada’s war during World War.
In the mural, Moises decided to cut her open and have space and stars coming out of her body, representing the more we learn about ourselves and where we come from, the more we learn about the universe.