Masterclass – Talks & Workshops

Context Matters: A Talk and Workshop with Jesse Birch

*NOTICE* Oxygen Art Centre postponed the Masterclass program with Jesse Birch, including both the public talk (Friday, March 13) and two-day workshop (Saturday, March 14 – Sunday, March 15).

To ensure the safety of our artists and community we have decided to reschedule these events at a later date.

Please stay tuned for details.

Public Talk:    Friday, March 13, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Admission by donation

Workshop:      Saturday, March 14, 2020 – Sunday, March 15, 2020

Register online, spaces limited

Oxygen Art Centre is pleased to welcome and present curator Jesse Birch (Nanaimo Art Gallery) for the Masterclass Series. The public are invited to attend Birch’s talk titled “Context Matters” on Friday, March 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM to learn about Birch’s curatorial practice as it has evolved in the small rural community of Nanaimo, BC.

Birch states, “In my practice as a curator, I am deeply committed to context responsive work, which involves engaging with forgotten or underrecognized sites and histories, empowering those whose stories are often not heard, and celebrating diverse forms of expression.” As such, Birch’s practice is highly collaborative in order to develop thematic exhibitions that are at once engaging in critical discourse and accessibility.

Birch notes that “this approach began [in Nanaimo] with a trilogy of projects relating to the resource industries that the city was built on.” For example, exhibitions such as Black Diamond Dust (2014), Silva/The Mill (2015/16) and Landfall and Departure (2017/18) all respond to the regional context of resource extraction through exhibition-led projects.

These exhibitions “were expansive on and off-site projects that set Nanaimo in international dialogue through contemporary art. These projects evidenced the value of sustained engagement with themes relevant to our community through larger, more diverse, and more engaged audiences.” In addition to the exhibitions, Black Diamond Dust and The Mill, have been published in book form and are distributed internationally through publishing agreement between Nanaimo Art Gallery and Sternberg Press (Berlin).

Learn more about these projects and their local, regional, and international relevance as Oxygen Art Centre hosts a free, public lecture on the evening of Friday, March 13, 2020.  Birch will discuss projects developed at Nanaimo Art Gallery in the past five years and will also highlighting the practices of artists who celebrate the local in their work. Like Nelson, Nanaimo is a small regional hub, and consequently the Nanaimo Art Gallery sees the specificity of the place we live and work as a strength.

Taking place over the weekend following the public lecture, participants are invited to register for a two-day workshop with Jesse Birch from Saturday, March 14 to Sunday, March 15, 2020. Artists, writers, curators, and administrators will benefit from group discussions and individual consultation with Birch. The workshop is intended for those interested in professional development, critical feedback on a project, and/or engagement in contemporary art issues and topics.

Birch notes that “productive dialogue and feedback with artists has long been an important part of my practice as a curator, educator, and writer. I know direct connections with curators from outside one’s region are valuable, and so during the workshop participants will be invited to bring projects they want to develop or would like feedback on.”

Participants will present their work through a scheduled consultation and with Birch will examine the works through productive dialogue. While projects that are rooted in the local are highly encouraged, Birch will be happy to engage any works that participants feel strongly about.

Oxygen Art Centre’s Masterclass Series invites contemporary art professionals to Nelson, BC to share their expertise and work with the local art and culture community. Focusing around the exchange of ideas, Masterclass Series offers an opportunity for professional support, education, and discourse surrounding contemporary art practice.

Masterclass Series presents a free, public talk and workshop over the course of a weekend and is generously supported by Central Kootenay Cultural Alliance.

Curator Biography:

Jesse Birch is Curator of Nanaimo Art Gallery (2014-).  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (Photography) from Emily Carr University (2001), and a Masters of Arts degree in Art History (Critical and Curatorial Studies) from the University of British Columbia (2008). In 2007, he was a curatorial fellow at de Appel arts centre in Amsterdam. Birch was Co-Director/Curator of Access Gallery in Vancouver from 2008 to 2010 and Exhibitions Curator at Western Front from 2012-2014. He has also served on the Board of the Or Gallery (Vancouver) and was active with the Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres.  Recent curatorial projects include a trilogy of exhibitions that set the resource industries that built the small coastal town of Nanaimo in international dialogue through contemporary art. Birch has published in numerous exhibition catalogues and art magazines including C Magazine, Yishu, and fillip.  In 2013, he received the Art Writing Award from Ontario Association of Art Galleries for his essay on artist Kika Thorne for the Art Gallery of Windsor. From 2009-2013 Birch taught at Emily Carr University in the Critical and Cultural Studies faculty.

Previous (Fall 2019):
Free Public Talk
Friday October 4, 2019 at 7:30pm
Oxygen Art Centre
Esker Foundation (Calgary) Director/Curator, Naomi Potter.
Potter’s talk, titled “Structurally Porous and Perpetually in Progress: Development & Progress of the Esker Foundation” will speak on the development and progress of Esker Foundation as a generous, supportive, and caring contemporary art gallery. How does one build an institution without becoming too institutional, support the local while participating in a global conversation, and above all how to bring relevance and accessibility to the diverse and complex communities. Potter will speak about developing this model, and the curatorial and engagement focus that supports it.
This event is one-part of Oxygen’s Masterclass Series programming that offers professional support, education, and discourse surrounding contemporary art practice. Potter will also be offering a workshop.
This event is generously supported by Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.
Presenter Bio:
Naomi Potter is the Director/Curator of Esker Foundation in Calgary. Over the last twenty years she developed numerous curatorial, artist, and residency projects in Canada and Central and Eastern Europe. From 2009-2011, she was curator of Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre where she produced solo projects and exhibitions with many artists including; Anthony Burnham, Geoffrey Farmer, Melanie Gilligan, Brian Jungen, Ragnar Kjartansson, Silke Otto-Knapp, and Ron Terada. More recently she has worked to develop solo projects at Esker Foundation with Peter von Tiesenhausen, Jason deHaan, Mia Feuer, Colleen Heslin, Etienne Zack, Jasmina Cibic, Tammi Campbell and Agnes Martin to name a few. In 2003, Potter was awarded a yearlong Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) artist residency in Istanbul, and from 2003 to 2007 was co-director of the international artist residency program at CESTA in the Czech Republic. In 2014, she was selected as one of Alberta’s 50 most influential people by Venture magazine, and in 2015 was a guest of both the Australian Arts Council and British Council International Curatorial Visit programs. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at Stride Gallery in Calgary. Potter holds a BFA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and an MFA in sculpture from Concordia University, Montreal.
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