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Meet the 2024 Faculty of Fine Arts valedictorians

‘Upholding individual expression and contributing to the field in a meaningful and ethical way’
June 4, 2024

Pictures of women artists Alexandra Resbri and Charissa von Harringa From Left to right: Alexandra Riesbri and Charissa von Harringa

As the June 6 Faculty of Fine Arts Spring Convocation ceremony approaches, two valedictorians share some of their outstanding achievements and advice to other students.

Both valedictorians were nominated primarily for their outstanding academic achievements, symbolizing excellence within their respective departments.

“The achievements and inspiring stories of Alexandra Riesbri and Charissa von Harringa are testaments to resilience, determination and academic excellence. Their unwavering commitment to their fields, as well as their communities, exemplify the spirit of Concordia's Faculty of Fine Arts,” says Elaine Cheasley Paterson, Associate Dean, Academic.

Woman sitting in room with colorful paintings in the back Alexandra Riesbri

Inspiring creativity, method and engagement: Alexandra Riesbri (alias Riesbri)

Selected as the undergraduate valedictorian for her remarkable achievements in Studio arts, Riesbri has made contributions that go beyond the classroom. She actively participated in various clubs, community projects and organizing of off-campus exhibitions, while receiving prestigious honours such as the Quebec Ministry of Higher Education Perseverance Award and the Concordia University Alumni Association Bursaries.

One of her memorable projects was organizing Past & Future, a drive-through exhibition for the sculpture program at the iconic Mies van der Rohe gas station in Nun’s Island.

“During a time when gatherings were prohibited due to COVID-19, this exhibition allowed students to showcase their hard work and utilize an incredible space that had been unused due to the pandemic,” she explains. “Coordinating this project and witnessing the success of the exhibition was immensely rewarding.”

This experience significantly shaped her academic and personal growth by teaching creative problem-solving, adaptability and the importance of providing opportunities for artistic expression even in challenging times, she adds.

Maintaining a high GPA while engaging in various extracurricular activities is no easy task. It required her to develop strong management and prioritization skills, as well as a self-care routine.

“Setting clear goals for both academic and extracurricular activities kept me motivated and provided a sense of direction. Seeking support from professors, peers and collaborators was also crucial.”

Picture of woman with pink shirt in front of brick wall Charissa von Harringa

Pushing boundaries and pursuing knowledge: Charissa Von Harringa

Graduate valedictorian Charissa von Harringa is heralding in a new era of scholarly inquiry and artistic exploration within the Department of Art History. Her research and curatorial work is rooted in decolonial methodologies and inclusive curation.

Von Harringa contributed to redefining contemporary art discourse and highlighting marginal histories, notably through her PhD dissertation, “Ecopoetics, Decolonizing Aesthetics, and the Fluid Spaces of Co-Existence in Contemporary Circumpolar Indigenous Art and Exhibitionary Practice.”

Von Harringa’s path has largely been shaped by her own experiences fueling her fascination for the lived experiences and aesthetic expression of others. “Having overcome many unfortunate experiences in my past, I am deeply committed to upholding individual expression and contributing to the field in a meaningful and ethical way,” says von Harringa.

Over the past eight years, von Harringa has been closely affiliated with Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership, actively participating in research groups and events that have helped her build capacity for contemporary circumpolar Indigenous arts in Canada and internationally. Through collaborative research, teaching, and curation, she has contributed to the flourishing of a transnational arts community, redefining contemporary art discourse.

“Embodying engaged research, I am grateful for the opportunities to channel critical thought, empathy, and creativity into actions that promote equitable research in the discipline and best representational practices in art institutions,” she explains. “My work is holistic and collective; for me, that is what real art history is about.”

Von Harringa’s involvement in this burgeoning global art community has underscored the importance of producing ethically curated research that resonates collectively and amplifies underrepresented voices. This experience has taught her to “analyze, observe and listen from the whole being — not just the academic voice — and strive to make research accessible, meaningful and relevant”.

Find out more about Concordia’s spring 2024 convocation ceremonies.

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