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Catherine Wild on the Wild Talks

Former Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts talks about the new seminar series named in her honour
January 19, 2017
By Andy Murdoch

Professor (and former dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts) Catherine Wild Former dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts Catherine Wild

The Wild Talks Seminar Series begins this week featuring New York artist Mark Dion. Dion will give an artist talk January 19 and he will make a screen print in collaboration with faculty member Jenny Lin, and graduate and undergraduate students, on January 20.

This new lecture series has been named in honour of Catherine Wild, former dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. The Lecture series is funded by the generosity of Erin Hogg.

We spoke with Wild, currently a professor in the printmaking stream of the Department of Studio Arts, about the history of the Wild Talks, and its significance to the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Q: You knew Erin Hogg when you were Dean and had a good working relationship with her. Is that how the idea for this started?

Erin was on the Fine Arts Advisory Committee when I arrived. She was already active in supporting the faculty. She’s been one of several people who have been consistently generous to the faculty. I got to know Erin in particular because she came to almost all our events and her intellectual curiosity and genuine interest in others stood out. She walked the Shuffle every year!

Erin was interested in making a substantial donation that would run over a number of years and she wanted some ideas for that. She’s a very thoughtful donor, one who was looking to always find a way to meet a need that existed or in doing things that made the student experience better. For instance, she gave money to help finish renovations to the Foundry so it could reopen which is not a high-profile donation, but it really made a difference to students.

Q: What made you think of a lecture series?

There were two factors. Our budget was never large enough to consistently mount speakers that might draw in a larger public and be of interest across the Faculty.  And I was drawing on a recent collaboration with La Biennale de Montréal. We had supported two of their top speakers Franco Berardi and Thomas Hirschorn and I negotiated a hands-on component just for our students. Berardi did a seminar class in coordination with Professor Alice Ming Wai Jim and Hirschorn conducted a workshop in coordination with Professor Ingrid Bachmann. Faculty were really supportive and students were definitely keen to participate.

What I suggested to Erin was that we mold her gift as an annual lecture linked to an opportunity for a unique student experience with the invited speaker. Departments could propose individuals as long as they have a cross-departmental pull and we would engender whoever was coming in to be here for somewhere between two and five days.

The fact that’s named after me came later! I wasn’t part of that discussion!

Q: How does it feel to have a lecture series named after you?

Well, it was exceptionally generous on Erin’s part and on everyone’s part. I think some folks in the Dean’s Office were involved but I don’t really know how it unfolded.  It was a very thoughtful and touching completion gift.

Q: And Mark will be working a full-day in the screen print studio with Print students…

Yes, it is really eye-opening for them to see an artist carrying out their creative practice. And Mark Dion has an unusual practice – he’s a collector, an aggregator who brings together very diverse objects to explore how our understanding of the natural world is shaped by a variety of influences. Other students and faculty are welcome to stop by and see how that’s unfolding on Friday. When students engage with a speaker, they can begin to see how one goes from where they are as a student to where this person is in their life. They get some greater sense of how to fill in that gap of understanding–which is a really huge gap–especially if you are an undergraduate.

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