Gallery 354: The child of the Eco-Art & Media Festival


Above: Visitors to Gallery 354 during the dian marino memorial exhibit, 2003

“Artistic work can merely mirror prevailing structures, or it can reflect and re:frame how we see our experiences.”
        – dian marino, from the book Wild Garden: Art, education, and the culture of resistance (1997)

In a small conference room in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, Gallery 354 is a refreshing alternative to blank walls. Showcasing the work of FES students, faculty and members of the broader community, the conference room on the third floor of Lumbers Bldg. is getting a lot of wear lately.

Gallery 354 started when the Wild Garden Eco-Art & Media Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, was moved out of the gallery space in the Student Centre to its present location in the Lumbers Bldg. as part of FES. 

“When we had the exhibits up [for the festival], people who were using the rooms kept talking about how much they enjoyed it,” says John Vainstein, FES’ Wild Garden Media Centre coordinator. The comments prompted faculty member Deborah Barndt to suggest a permanent gallery space and by the fall of 2002, “Gallery 354” was launched.

The original concept for a gallery showcasing work inspired by the environment originated with the late dian marino who was the inspiration for the Wild Garden concept. A visual artist, activist, educator and storyteller, marino, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, died in 1993. marino was the author of the book Wild Garden: Art, education, and the culture of resistance.

In 2003, Gallery 354 held a tribute to dian marino on the 10th anniversary of her death. In a moving day-long event, friends and family recalled her work and her spirit, telling her stories in the midst of some of her work. More recently, a similar event paid tribute to Rob Milliken, a former MES student and artist.

Past shows at Gallery 354 (2002-2003) included exhibits of photographs by Beth Franklin (faculty), mixed media by Sau Wai Tai (MES student), watercolours by Gerda Wekerle (faculty), a memorial exhibition of dian marino’s mixed media work, and a group show by graduate students James Wilkes (photography), Karen Abel (painting) and James Maynard (painting).

The current academic year (2003-2004) began with shows by MES students: the first by Leah Burns (drawing), Pariss Garramone (mixed media), Sarah Dopp (mixed media) and Melanie Kramer (mixed media); the second, by two photographers, Fatima Saidi and Baljit Sidhu. Then, Liora Salter (faculty) and her colleagues at PlainSpeak (, a nonprofit organization that advocates informed decisions and public debate by making legal, scientific and public policy language understandable, exhibited some of their work with information graphics and creative media (mixed media for communication). This was followed by the mixed media tribute to Rob Milliken. The current exhibition, which features the photographic work of Melissa Valja (BES) and Cassidy Ritz (MES), will run until Feb. 26.

Everyone is welcome to the opening on Friday, Feb. 27, at 6pm of the Eco-Art & Media Festival’s Visual Art Exhibition which will grace the walls of Gallery 354 and spill out onto other walls throughout the faculty. This exciting exhibition continues until March 31.  Click here for more details about the Eco-Art & Media Festival.

This story was submitted to YFile by Mari Lessment, a first-year MES student.