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'Stories define who we are'

Interview with organizers of Stories We Tell: 2018 Art History Graduate Student Association symposium
January 17, 2018
By Karly Beard

(Image credits: Janina Anderson, Soldiers (2017). Acrylic on crushed bond paper. Image courtesy of the artist.; (Image credits: Janina Anderson, Soldiers (2017). Acrylic on crushed bond paper. Image courtesy of the artist. The AHGSA used Janina's artwork in their promotional materials.

This year’s Art History Graduate Student Association symposium, “Stories We Tell” takes place on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

It features a keynote lecture and workshop from noted arts theorist Dr. Jeanne Randolph, as well as three panels on aspects of fiction and storytelling in art and art history. Organized by Sara England and Chanelle Lalonde, Master’s students in the Department of Art History at Concordia, it promises to be an event for exchange and networking across disciplines.

The title of the symposium is “Stories We Tell.” Can you talk about the choice to emphasize story?

Sara England: Stories hold an important role in culture, and in defining who we are. We wanted to think about how we can expand art history as a practice, and to think about art history as storytelling. Artists have always told stories through their artworks – how does our writing reflect that? We were also thinking about the current political climate, and this idea of “post-truth.” Fiction can be used as propaganda, but it can also reveal the truth in ways that straight-forward writing can’t.

This year you have chosen to host a symposium rather than a conference, why is that?

Chanelle Lalonde: Even though previous years have been really successful, we made the decision to change the format of the conference a bit. There is so much going on in Montreal, and at Concordia, we hope that limiting the event to one day might encourage busy students as well as established academics to participate. We hope the symposium format creates a sense of intimacy and fosters networking opportunities and exchange for those who attend.

What can you tell us about the keynote speaker, Dr. Jeanne Randolph?

SE: Dr. Randolph is a prominent art writer and theorist, and a leader in the arts in Canada. She has been in the field for a long time, and has really expanded what art writing can be. She is a risk taker! She puts fiction forward as a tool and method, and her lectures often use elements of performance. We gave her carte-blanche for her keynote address, and we don’t really know what she is going to do!

What do you want people to know about the conference? Why should people come?

CL:  We hope to create a supportive environment for graduate students, and to create opportunities to meet new people and make lasting relationships.

SE: Our panels offer a variety of perspectives—participants are coming from a range of disciplines. We also have a number of artists participating, including artist Janina Anderson who is featured on all our promotional material.

Can the greater Concordia fine arts community take part? How?

SE: Yes! The workshop is full, which is very exciting for us. There are three panels, which are open to everyone. All the events are free, and people are welcome to come and go as they please.  There is a catered lunch, which is intended as an opportunity for networking, as well as a reception after the keynote.

CL: Anyone can come from outside of Concordia too! It is an art history conference, but there is a broad range of topics that can appeal to many people.

SE: Anyone interested in the humanities, social sciences, or politics will have something at stake.

Symposium schedule: January 20

AHGSA Symposium poster Poster design by MA student Sarah Amarica.
AHGSA Graduate symposium schedule Click to see full size listing of events and schedule.
  • 9 - 10:30 a.m. Writing with Double Vision: Writing workshop led by Dr. Jeanne Randolph (FULL)
  • 10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Panel: Mapping Narratives EV 3.760
  • 12:15 - 1 p.m. Lunch EV Junction, EV 2.789
  • 1 - 2:30 p.m. Panel: Materializing Stories
  • 2:45 - 4:15 p.m. Panel: Fabircating Myth
  • 6 - 7:30 p.m. Keynote presentation "Art Writing Allegiances" by Dr. Jeanne Randolph

For full scheduling information and panel descriptions visit the Symposium Facebook event page: You can find AHGSA Concordia at:

The Art History Graduate Student Association (AHGSA) would like to warmly thank the Concordia Council on Student Life (CCSL), the Graduate Students Association - Concordia University, the Concordia University Alumni Association, the Community Building Fund and the Department of Art History for their financial support

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