An art installation unveiled on Sept. 28 at York University’s Markham Campus highlights how amazing things happen when diverse communities work together to create positive change.
York students, staff, faculty and alumni are making things right for local communities, the planet and the future through artistic expressions on display in front of the University’s new campus, currently under construction in the heart of Markham.
York University has partnered with STEPS – an award-winning cultural organization that facilitates public art initiatives across Canada – to showcase community artwork on the construction hoarding on Enterprise Boulevard, in front of the Markham Campus site. Earlier this year, an invitation for artistic expressions from the York community was issued asking artists to consider what it means to right the future at the Markham Campus.
“York University is rooted in the longstanding core values of social justice, equity and sustainability and we are proud of how our students and alumni are seeking to create a more sustainable and inclusive world through these artistic expressions,” says Rhonda Lenton, York’s president and vice-chancellor. “Markham Campus represents the very best of what York has to offer – enhanced 21st century learning that prepares the next generation for the jobs of the future while expanding the region’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems. This public art installation will spark important community reflection and conversation while strengthening our impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and driving positive change for our local and global communities.”
Eight artworks were selected to be part of the final exhibition, titled “Right The Future.” Featured artists received an honorarium per selected image and were credited on-site as well as in all exhibit materials. The artists are:
- Lisa Cristinzo – a queer painter and installation artist and first-generation Canadian settler living in Tkaronto. She has a BFA from OCADU and an MFA from York University.
- Wendy Lu – a Hard of Hearing, Taiwan-born, Toronto-based multimedia artist who graduated with specialized honours from York University with a bachelor of fine arts in visual arts.
- Marissa Magneson – is a Cree-Métis artist, photographer, educator, and workshop facilitator. She has a BFA honours degree from York University and a master’s degree in Canadian and Indigenous studies from Trent University. She is pursuing a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at York University.
- Sabeel Sadicote – is a self-taught artist who experiments with assorted media. She is an MBA candidate at the Schulich School of Business.
- Jasmine Swimmer – is an Afro-Indigenous multi-disciplinary artist specializing in digital art and animation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from York University.
- Mark Terry – is a digital artist, documentary filmmaker and adjunct professor at York’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.
- Katelyn Truong – is a Toronto-based illustrator who graduated from OCAD University and is currently working toward a bachelor of education at York University.
- Julija Valdmanis – is a registered nurse currently enrolled in York University’s Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program. Valdmanis is a self-taught artist.
During the Sept. 28 event, Lenton offered acknowledged those involved in the project, and referred to the unveiling ceremony as a high point in York’s history. The construction hoarding, she noted, tells a series of stories that come from the imaginations and lived experiences of talented artists from the York community.
Lenton said: “In the artist statement that accompanies her work ‘Reflection,’ Sabeel writes, ‘The choices we take today will determine what the future holds for us. Our actions will either flow towards the road of darkness or flow into the future that is ‘right’ for all. So, what actions will lead us to a future that is ‘right’ for us? What actions can enrich lives, make all communities prosper, and make nature bloom?’
“Powerful words and work from Sabeel and the seven other artists.”
By challenging the traditions of what a university campus can offer, Markham Campus will act as a unique meeting place for students to interact directly with employers, start-up companies, and community partners from across York Region. It will also provide space for unexpected and creative encounters, interdisciplinarity and collective learning experiences.
The new campus will embed York U in the heart of one of the most diverse and dynamic urban communities in the province and country. As the City of Markham continues to develop, it also retains a rich history and heritage that informs its growth. Acknowledging that the University will be part of this tapestry, York U students, staff, faculty and alumni were invited to share their artistic expressions of positive change, for a chance to have their artwork featured in the community art project. Artists were encouraged to think outside the box about what it means to right the future at this new campus, while contemplating the dimensions of time (past, present and future), interdisciplinarity, sustainability and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
York U is the highest-ranked university in the GTA in the Times Higher Education Impact rankings, and in the top three Ontario universities. On a global scale, York U is ranked in the world’s top 35 universities – ranking 33 out of 1,406 universities, moving up 34 spots from last year in terms of addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“We are thrilled to partner with the City of Markham, York Region and business and community leaders to deliver exciting projects and initiatives that reflect the diverse voices within our communities. I am pleased to see this community art collaboration come to life as we continue to build momentum toward the opening of the campus in Spring 2024,” says Gordon Binsted, deputy provost, Markham Campus. “Thank you to the talented and dedicated artists within York University’s community for submitting such compelling art that contemplates how Markham Campus will right the future.”
The artwork will be displayed on the construction hoarding until it is no longer required on site. To learn more about Markham Campus, visit yorku.ca/markham.