AGYU wins major awards for exhibitions, publication design and writing

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) has done it again. York University’s innovative gallery won a number of awards of excellence from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG). The awards, which recognize the work of public art galleries in Ontario, were announced in November during a gala reception held at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. In total, the OAAG presented 26 awards to 13 galleries from 11 cities in Ontario. The AGYU took home five of the prestigious awards.

The AGYU won the Public Program Award for its landmark exhibit Ring of Fire. A massive, two-year project with Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith, Ring of Fire culminated last summer with a 300-person street procession along University Avenue from Queen’s Park to City Hall that opened the cultural program of the Parapan American Games.

As part of Ring of Fire, the gallery collaborated with a number of community organizations, including the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Capoeira Angola, Picasso Pro, Equal Grounds, and a host of spoken word poets from the Jane-Finch, Malvern and Regent Park neighbourhoods in Toronto, as well as partners SKETCH, Art Starts, The Malvern S.P.O.T., Success Beyond Limits, COBA, and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD).

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Griffith’s monographic exhibition Symbols of Endurance, also curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur, won for Best Exhibition.

Visitors to the AGYU examine the Stairry steps exhibit
Visitors to the AGYU examine the Starry Stairs exhibit
The cover of the Starry Stairs publication
The cover of the Starry Stairs publication

Another award was given to the AGYU’s first exhibition in its Curatorial Intensive mentorship program (a partnership with York’s Department of Visual Art & Art History in AMPD), which also took home a top exhibition award. Curator Vanessa Nicholas, a PhD student at York University, received the First Exhibition in a Public Gallery Award for her AGYU-sponsored, collection-based exhibition Starry Stairs (which also travelled to the Art Gallery of Sudbury). The publication for that exhibition, designed by Brett Ramsay and published by the AGYU, won an OAAG Design Award.

Not to be outdone, AGYU Curator Philip Monk took home a prestigious OAAG Award for Excellence in Curatorial Writing in the Major Text over 5,000 words category for the publication Is Toronto Burning? Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene, produced in 2016.

Here’s a full list of individuals who were part of the award-winning work done by the AGYU: 

Exhibition of the Year, Budget under $20,000, Monographic
Symbols of Endurance
Emelie Chhangur: Curator & Exhibition Designer
Suzanne Carte: Exhibition Coordinator
Michael Beynon, Carmen Schroder, Joel Cotrill, Ester Simmonds-MacAdam, Aamna Muaffar: Gallery Installation Team
Marlon Griffith: Artist
Art Gallery of York University, 2015

The jury described the exhibition as an “ambitious, boundary pushing, exciting new approach to working with artists and communities and bridging suburban and urban communities.”

First Exhibition in a Public Art Gallery
Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis
Vanessa Nicholas: Curator, Exhibition Designer & Exhibition Coordinator
Chris Boni & Vanessa Nicholas: Gallery Installation Team
Alma Rumball, Lido Pimienta, Louise Reimer, Kendra Yee: Artists
Art Gallery of York University, 2016

The jury remarked, “Vanessa Nicholas brings together a selection of works on paper in an interesting way giving a new way to look at the artist. This is a well-considered project by an emerging curator.”

Monk's publication "Is Toronto Burning?"
Monk’s publication Is Toronto Burning?

Curatorial Art Writing, Major Text over 5,000 words
Is Toronto Burning? Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene
Philip Monk: Author
Art Gallery of York University, 2016

The jury remarked, “This text will have staying power and serve to form later conversation which will be both timely and enduring. The work is well researched and articulated, the writing clear and concise and an interesting call to action at the end.”

Public Program Award
Ring of Fire
Emelie Chhangur: Curator
Art Gallery of York University, 2014-15

The jury said that Ring of Fire “engaged civic space in really important ways and its support for community participation in real and rigorous ways. This was an inspiring public program and rare in how it invested in communities on a long-term basis and the various communities it reached.”

Design Awards
Art Book, Budget under $1,500
Starry Stairs
Brett Ramsay: Design
Vanessa Nicholas: Text and Curator
Art Gallery of York University

The jury said the publication was “a lovely and intimate reading experience. The lovely monotone pink approach and the urgent feel it gives to the piece.”

York AMPD alumni also took home OAAG Awards, including: 

Melissa Bennett (MA ’07), curator and designer of the show “are you experienced?” at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, won the OAAG award for Exhibition Installation and Design.

Srimoyee Mitra (BA ’04, MA’08), curator and co-designer of the show Wafaa Bilal: 168.01 at the Art Gallery of Windsor, won the award for Exhibition of the Year – Budget over $20,000, Monographic. The show was a partnership with the Esker Foundation (Calgary), Varley Art Gallery (Markham, Ont.) and the Confederation Centre for the Arts (Charlottetown, P.E.I.). Mitra also won an Art Publication Award for Border Cultures, for which she served as curator, gallery project coordinator and editor. The project was a publishing partnership of the Art Gallery of Windsor with the University of Toronto and Black Dog Publishing (London, U.K.). Mitra is the curator of contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Brendan Fernandes: Lost Bodies, an exhibition featuring work by York grad Brendan Fernandes (BFA ’02), won OAAG Award for Innovation in Collections-Based Exhibition.