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Making space for creative practice

Natalie Voland builds community by connecting Concordia student-artists with working professionals
June 12, 2020
By Marta Samuel

“Communities are incomplete without universities,” says Natalie Voland.

As one of the founding board members of Quartier de l’innovation, a non-profit organization that links businesses with government and universities, Natalie Voland began her first of many collaborations with Concordia.

Since then, the relationship has continued to deepen and Voland, who is the founder and president of the commercial real-estate developer Quo Vadis, is now supporting the next generation of artists at Concordia with a gift of studio space.

“I didn’t want to just give the space and call it a day,” says Voland. “We’ve created an agreement so that Concordia students, whatever they’re working on, know that there’s a whole community of artists in the building that they can go to if they need support or want to talk about research.”

Housed in Complexe Canal Lachine, the space spans more than 1,400 square feet — a large studio available to PhD students in Concordia’s Individualized Program and Humanities program from now until 2024. Among the building’s tenants are painters, photographers, publishers, game designers and architects. Concordia students will have full-time access to the building’s services, which include a restaurant, wireless lounges and an art gallery.

“Concordia’s education is very real and there’s an organic way to collaborate. What we do is create communities. And communities are incomplete without universities.”

“If we don’t support our students and what they’re doing, then for me, we’re losing an investment,” Voland says. “We wanted to pair up the older artists in the building with newer ones because it’s daunting to start a career in art. And now Concordia has a home directly in our buildings.”

Future plans for the partnership include an open house for the PhD students at Complexe Canal Lachine so they can showcase their work to the community. Voland would also like to see programming open to all tenants in the building to “create a synergy between students and a real working community in the art world.”

‘Concordia’s education is very real’

Voland is currently pursuing her PhD at Concordia, conducting research with Ursula Eicker, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities. Though she only embarked on her studies at the beginning of 2020, Voland is already working with Eicker on programming to prototype in Quo Vadis’s projects.

At the helm of a Certified B Corporation, Voland says that part of Quo Vadis’s mission is to build community while being conscious of her industry’s environmental impact. Building on Concordia’s expertise to help her company progress the way it does business, Voland takes pride in her affiliation with the university.

“Concordia’s education is very real and there’s an organic way to collaborate. What we do is create communities. And communities are incomplete without universities.”

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