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‘It feels like a homecoming’

Spotlight on: The Faculty of Fine Arts
November 22, 2021
By Andy Murdoch

Joshua Benlolo and Robbie Zunenshine perform at the Centre for the Arts in Human Development’s Fall 2017 benefit concert.

In 1993, Lenore Vosberg, director of clinical services and public outreach at Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development (CAHD) had an idea.

She wanted to produce a play featuring some of the adults with developmental disabilities with whom she worked as a social worker. She pitched the idea to Stephen Snow, associate professor of drama therapy, who at the time taught a course on therapeutic theatre for special-needs populations.

They adapted the story of Aladdin for the stage and the result was a resounding success. Propelled by the positive results, Vosberg and Snow teamed up with Miranda D’Amico, professor of education, and the CAHD was born.

Over the years, the CAHD has produced 13 original shows and more than 100 original songs. In addition, the program has hosted more than 250 interns and about the same number of clinical-therapy participants. The centre not only puts a spotlight on the talents of people with developmental disabilities, it also focuses on encouraging inclusion by showcasing their abilities, advocating for their rights and, in turn, changing social perceptions.

The CAHD celebrated its silver jubilee anniversary on June 17 with a virtual fundraising event. Graduates of the centre, their families, past interns and staff as well as supporters and members of the community attended the event, which included a screening of a documentary highlighting the centre’s achievements over the past 25 years.

Rewriting Canadian cultural history

Deanna Bowen, assistant professor of intersectional, feminist and decolonial 2D and 4D image-making practices in Concordia’s Department of Studio Arts, has won the $50,000 annual Scotiabank Photography Award.

The award is Canada’s most lucrative photography prize, recognizing the achievements of established mid-tolate- career artists. Bowen is the fifth Concordian to receive the award since it launched nine years ago.

Over the course of her career, Bowen has received numerous honours, including a 2020 Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts, a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. “Making political art is not a Canadian norm, which makes it even more special to be recognized from a jury of my peers, among a cohort of predominantly racialized artists,” says Bowen.

“This win provides the opportunity to reach out to an international community and make connections with Black and Indigenous artists around the world. That’s a big factor in my efforts to help rewrite Canadian cultural history.”

‘I love the range of creative practices at Concordia’

Since starting her position as the new director of Concordia’s FOFA Gallery in August, the most pressing item on the agenda of Nicole Burisch, MA11, has been bringing the gallery back into its physical space.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Faculty of Fine Arts repurposed the gallery space as a depot for the Centre for Digital Arts, which used it to distribute equipment and course kits to fine-arts students. Over the course of her career, Burisch has worked with organizations like the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, and Artexte, among others.

“I love the range of creative practices at Concordia and that we have a mandate to be involved in all of them, to think of broader projects and in a more interdisciplinary way,” says Burisch. As an alumna of the university’s Art History program, Burisch has strong connections with Concordia and has been back frequently to lecture on curatorial practice and craft theory. “

I’ve already received a warm welcome back and it feels like a homecoming,” she says.

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