Marking 30 years of grad-student achievement in the visual arts

York University’s Graduate Program in Visual Arts celebrates an artistic and philanthropic milestone with a special exhibition featuring selected works from the Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection, running May 14-18 in the Gales Gallery. A catalogue documenting the entire collection will be launched at the opening reception on May 14.

Right: The sculpture Boats by York alumnus Jeff Menzies (MFA ’06) is the latest work to be acquired for the Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection

The show marks 30 years of graduate student achievement, highlighting their legacy to the University in an art collection made possible thanks to the sustained support of Toronto philanthropist Samuel Sarick.

Sarick established the purchase award in the MFA Program in Visual Arts in 1976 – just two years after the program was established. In every year since, one or more works have been selected for acquisition from the thesis exhibitions of students graduating from the program. These award-winning works comprise the Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection.

An outstanding selection of Canadian contemporary art created by then-emerging artists, the collection reflects artistic expression and style over three decades. It also serves as an important component of the historical record of the visual arts graduate program and its alumni.

Many of the recipients of the Samuel Sarick Purchase Award have gone on to distinguish themselves as artists and art educators in Canada and abroad. Among those represented in the collection are painter, designer and installation artist Robert McNealy; sculptors Cynthia Short and Doug Buis; installation artist and sculptor Marla Hlady; and York visual arts Professor Judith Schwarz, a sculptor known nationally for her large-scale public art commissions.

"Future generations will be educated and enriched by these works," said graduate program director Yvonne Singer, who coordinated the exhibition as well as the research and production of the 48-page catalogue.

The Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection 30th Anniversary Exhibition features more than a dozen works encompassing a range of media, from sculpture, painting and video stills to drawing and photography.

Among the works on view will be the latest acquisition to the collection: a wall sculpture titled Boats by Jeff Menzies.

Left: A close-up view of Menzies’ Boats

"I feel Boats represents my graduating body of work very well," said Menzies. "It involves the manipulated image of a tugboat that has been formed into two almost complete circles made of plywood and formica."

Menzies works across a variety of media, including welded and stainless steel, cast bronze, iron, aluminum, concrete and wood. His thesis show involves investigating a personal narrative/oral history of his own life experiences.

"It is truly an honour to join the Sarick Collection of artists," said Menzies. "The collection represents a very strong MFA program – one of the best."

Along with Menzies, several previous Sarick Award-winners will be on hand at the opening reception. They include painter Scott Waters; multidisciplinary artist Francis Labouthillier; photographers Rafael Goldchain and Sue Lloyd; new media multidisciplinary artist Kartz Ucci; and painter Janet Jones, who currently chairs York’s Department of Visual Arts.

The Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection 30th Anniversary Exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will be on display May 14 -18, from 9am to 4pm, in the Gales Gallery, 105 Accolade West Building. The opening reception takes place Monday, May 14, from 5 to 7pm.

To view some of the works, visit the Samuel Sarick Purchase Award Collection site.