Skip to main content

She graduated at 50. Now this mother of six is a professional artist helping emerging creatives get their start

“I’m not done learning and growing, not by a longshot,” says Rosi Di Meglio
January 9, 2024
By Ian Harrison, BComm 01

A woman sitting in front of several large, colorful abstract paintings. She has curly, dark hair that falls to her shoulders and is wearing a light brown knitted cardigan over a white shirt. She is smiling slightly at the camera. Behind her, there are multiple canvases propped up against a white wall in an art studio setting. Rosi Di Meglio, BFA 21, at her studio in Montreal’s Garment District

At a university well-known for welcoming mature students and launching second careers, the Concordia journey of Rosi Di Meglio, BFA 21, stands out.

“I enrolled as an undergraduate in the Department of Art Education when I was in my 40s,” says Di Meglio, a multimedia artist who works out of her own studio in Montreal’s Garment District. “I had six kids at home between the ages of 10 and 18, had recently left an abusive marriage and desperately needed a change.”

The daughter of conservative Italian-Catholics — her parents first emigrated from Italy to Burnaby, British Columbia, and then moved to Montreal’s West Island suburbs when she was five — Di Meglio was encouraged to put the needs of others first.

“It was a very traditional, and frankly, abusive upbringing,” she says. “My sister and I were raised to be good wives and mothers. My four brothers, on the other hand, when dinner was over they all sat on the couch while we cleaned up.

“You know the families in Elena Ferrante’s novels? Those dynamics still exist.”

‘Concordia challenged me in the best way’

The image is an abstract painting where muted greens, yellows, blues, purples, and reds converge into a harmonious composition. From Di Meglio’s Jerusalem series: “Artist Colony,” oil, charcoal on cotton canvas, 2020-2021

At Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Di Meglio’s creativity — flashes of which had permeated her childhood — took root and flourished.

But it didn't happen overnight.

“When you’re from a different generation than your classmates, it’s not always easy to acclimate and make friends. There was some ageism there, which I’ve also had to face as an older, emerging artist. But overall, the environment at Concordia was transformative and challenged me in the best way.”

As an arts educator who worked with adults and children at a community centre in the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Di Meglio initially saw teaching as her path.

It was her second major in the faculty’s Painting and Drawing program — completed after Di Meglio took two years off to care for her mother after a cancer diagnosis — that proved formative, however.

“I didn’t necessarily see myself as an ‘artist,’ so to speak, when I started at Concordia,” she says. “I had established a program for kids with special needs at the community centre where I taught and thought that was my future. But then one of my instructors said bluntly, ‘No, you’re a painter. You need to create.’”

Empowered with new purpose, Di Meglio did just that, rigorously developing her personal expression over time. There were occasional clashes, she says — her professors’ and fellow students’ ideas didn’t always accord with her own — but Di Meglio held firm. She graduated with top marks in 2021 at the age of 50.

“After second-guessing myself for a while, I finally decided to just be free,” she says. “To just create what’s in my mind, without trying to please anyone other than myself. It took time and wasn’t easy, but following my instincts has paid off.”

To explore Di Meglio’s studio is to understand why. The sunlit space includes in-progress and finished canvases — including a series inspired by a field school stint Di Meglio did in Jerusalem as a student — a vintage printmaking machine, rows of neatly-organized materials and a lounge.

‘I decided to build something for emerging artists’

The image shows a large, translucent hanging fabric with multiple square patches arranged in a grid. Each patch features a different design, with botanical motifs, abstract patterns, and some textual elements in various colors. The fabric is suspended from the ceiling in a well-lit room. “An Heirloom,” Akua ink, black tea, pencil ink, nori paste on Japanese Kozuke white paper, 2021

Di Meglio, who works two days a week as an assistant director at Gallerie Lacerte art contemporain, garners plenty of interest from buyers in Montreal and, thanks in part to the endorsement of her former professor, Leopold Plotek, is represented in Toronto by the Corkin Gallery.

Her current practice is partly focused on an innovation she’s developed with support from a Canada Council for the Arts grant.

“I’m working on a technique for canvases, using papier-mâché to create these undulating, wave-like textures that I then paint over after the surface has completely dried. It took two years to get the formula right.”

Just down the hall from Di Meglio’s studio are two massive spaces that she rents out to other artists, some of them Concordia alumni. The vast, high-ceilinged ateliers are subdivided into 17 intimate studios where emerging creatives pursue their chosen media, whether it’s pencil drawing, painting, ceramics or sculpture.

“I’m very grateful to Rosi to have access to a space like this,” says Li Zhou, BFA 23. “It’s allowed me to concentrate on building up my portfolio to eventually apply for my master’s. I’ve also made a friend here! She works just across from me.”

In facilitating the creative journeys of other artists, many half her age, does Di Meglio feel like she’s taken on a traditional caregiving role again?

She smiles at the suggestion.

“The first studio I worked out of was a space with about eight other people,” she says. “There was no privacy and I didn’t feel safe. So when I got established in my own studio, I decided to build something for emerging artists that was in line with what I needed when I was starting out.”

Aside from developing the project that the Canada Council for the Arts has helped fund, Di Meglio has plans to continue her studies and pursue a graduate degree, perhaps at Concordia or at another university in Canada or the United States.

“Creating has allowed me to work through a lot of pain and trauma, and helped me become a better, freer version of myself,” she says. “And it’s helped me confront my fears, too. So I’m excited about the future. I’m not done learning and growing, not by a longshot.”


Back to top

© Concordia University