My Continuing Studies Experience So Far

After I finished my BFA in Drawing and Painting at OCAD University in 2018, I felt lost. There were no more classes to go to, no strict deadlines, and no industry professionals that I could easily access. It felt a little daunting - now, almost everything was all up to me. 

So my during my first year out of school, I forced myself to learn as much as possible, while working full time and expanding my art practice. I went to artist talks, exhibition openings; became a member of a few local museums/galleries, and read tons of art-based books. This freedom in knowledge seeking allowed me to become more curious in mediums outside my realm. I no longer had the bindings of being a Drawing & Painting student - I could study whatever I wanted - which eventually lead me to textiles, but that is a different story. 

So my educational adventure was going great, but after several months I started to burn myself out. My schedule was chaotic. I would work over 40 hours a week and go to two to three openings, plus an artist talk if it was available - then try to study, make art and have a social life when I got home. This schedule was not going to be sustainable, and I didn’t know what to do about it. 

When I was researching for schools to apply to for my Masters, and I happened to stumble upon OCAD’s continuing studies program. I was drawn in by the diverse certificates they offered, and the fact that they were on a familiar campus. So I enrolled in the Business Skills for Creative Professionals Certificate, and here I am now halfway through the 5-credit based program. 

I started my continuing studies adventure back in September 2019 and took two courses over the fall semester: Writing Skills for Visual Artists, and Professional Practice for Emerging Artists. They ranged from 4 weeks to 6 weeks in length and were both 3-hour long class sessions. The writing course was an intense workshop where you truly get out what you put into it. There was a list of words never to use, examples of where to find excellent writing, and what to do when you are stuck. It pushed my writing and made me comfortable with composing short artist statements for grants, proposals, and much more.

 The other course: Professional Practice for Emerging Artists, focused on how to get yourself into the artist community when you are an emerging artist, and where/what to look for in the opportunities that arise. This course involved field trips, guest speakers, and a focus on building your online presence. It was less demanding than the previous session, however, the open class discussions were a big plus in the learning experience. 

Currently, I am taking my first course of the winter semester: Collecting Contemporary Art, so stay tuned for a recap in a few months when I finish my certificate. 

If these courses don’t intrigue you, there is a total of 18 courses that go to my certificate alone. Just keep in mind that they are not always available - so you might have to wait until next season to find that perfect class. However, they do give you up to 3 years to complete the certificate - so you can wait until that class you have your eye on opens up. 

Overall, I highly recommend taking continuing studies courses. They have pushed my skills to new places, connected me with amazing people that I would not have met otherwise, and furthered my resources to attain new knowledge. This scheduled time to study on focused topics opened up time in my week to explore other avenues. I am still going to openings, artist talks, etc. but I don’t feel burned out anymore. Plus, I’ve been able to bounce/explore new ideas for the work off my instructors, and their feedback has always been constructive. So if you are on edge, take one course to start - you can still apply for the certificate later - and if you do, let me know what courses you picked! Maybe I’ll even see you in class!

- Sarah Zanchetta

Xpace Cultural Centre: January Exhibitions 2020

January is filled with exhibition openings, and I want to go to all of them! But that is impossible, obviously, so I usually have a small list of go-to galleries and centres that rise to the top of my priority, and Xpace Cultural Centre is always one of them. 

I first heard of Xpace back in my university days, since the OCAD Student Union supports the centre - it was a pretty popular place to visit to see who is up and coming. But just in case you haven’t heard of them before, here is a little summary. Xpace is a non-profit artist-run centre near Lansdowne and Dundas St. West in Toronto - dedicated to creating and finding opportunities for emerging and student artists, curators, writers and designers to share their work.

Currently, there are four main sections to their January Exhibitions: Emotional Objects curated by Emily Grove (main space), * Screams Internally * (for Attention) by artist Samirra Sada (project space), Hopping for Hope by artist Ahreum Lee (external space), and Ha ha wall by artist Erika Verhagen (window space). Each space stood out in its own right, and if I wrote about all of them, this blog post would be as long as my thesis paper. So I’m going to focus on the piece that I can’t stop thinking about: Verhagen’s Ha ha wall

Before I jump in, here is the artist statement for the piece provided by Xpace, to give you a base for the work. 

A glass, knocked off your bedside table falls onto your hardwoods and your downstairs neighbour retaliates with a broom handle to his ceiling. The glass falls onto your area rug and you pick out the pieces by hand for an hour.
Named for the 18th-century wall, designed to both preserve the sightline of pastoral farmland and to minimize the interruption of unwanted visitors, Ha ha wall is an installation that explores the tactile and sonic experience of living spaces through rug-making. Your rug hushes your anxious pacing footsteps, a quiet conversation through a door with a roommate. It preserves the cherished silence of your living space, minimizes the unwanted intrusions of the outside world.

Ha ha wall is presented as part of DesignTO 2020. 

(This statement for Ha Ha Wall was found on Xpace’s website, as of 2020-01-24) 

There are not many things that will make me voluntarily stand outside in winter weather, especially when the wind is whipping me in the face. However, when I visited Xpace - I spent most of my time doing just that - standing outside in the snow, staring into the river of rug-hooked textiles that filled the bubble of glass.

 My eyes raced through the stream from left to right and back again, amazed by Verhagen’s play of shadows and delicate technique. At first, I didn’t even see the chair; it was an object that these textiles ran through, its shadows playing on the soft textures, altering their colour. The rugs became the chair’s shadow, the water, and the floor; they were everything - and not, the wooden chair just slightly covered in their warmth. They are the barrier to this environment, a protective casing that stops the viewer from entering. 

We cannot sit on that chair. We can only see this world that Verhagen has created behind not only the wall of glass but across the winding river that flows through the piece. This space is not for me; I am just a stranger passing through, who is allowed to glimpse into this private moment in time. 

Maybe this is why I didn’t want to leave. I have continued to visit this piece a few times since the opening, in better weather, might I add, and I’m still entranced as I was the first time. Even noticing new details, and admiring how the sunlight affects the piece - especially at sunset since the window space faces west.  

So go see it! 

You only have until February 22nd to visit this work, along with the other exhibitions currently inside Xpace. There are also fantastic essays to go along with each space, and even if you can’t make it out - they are available to download on the Xpace website. 

 All the information used to create this blog is found within the exhibition catalogue provided by the Xpace Cultural Centre. All artwork and archival photographs are not my property; their rights and ownership are connected to their respectful owners in full. 

 Let me know what you think of the exhibitions, and I hope to see you at their next opening!

Stephen Bulger Gallery: Claudia Fahrenkemper

The Stephen Bulger Gallery, one of Toronto’s leading photography galleries, is currently exhibiting a survey of work from photographer Claudia Fahrenkemper. The exhibition opened on January 11th and continues to February 8th, 2020. Even though the famed photographer has been shown internationally, and collected by the National Gallery of Canada, this is Claudia’s first solo show in Canada and her second within North America.

 I did not know of Claudia’s work until this past Wednesday when I attended a private talk at the gallery about the artist. So here are some of the key facts I learned about Claudia, just in case you are new to her work as I am.

 Claudia is a german photographer who studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf from 1989 to 1995. Her practice focuses on the isolation of beauty in both human-made and organic items. This has led her to create works highlighting landscapes, machinery, microphotography, and armour throughout her ongoing 30-year practice. 

Claudia’s early work depicts her fascination with mechanics. Everything from enormous machinery, as shown above, to the tiniest of screws used in medical operations. From here, she began to manipulate scientific computers, used initially been for documentation purposes, to take highly detailed photography using medium format film. Each object was plated in gold to achieve high contrast and to stop dust from collecting. She used the altered machinery to photograph a variety of seeds and insects, often referring to their skin/shells as their armour.


This exploration lead to other varieties of armour, from knights to most recently samurais. Most of her photography is in black and white until her samurai series, where she introduced colour to highlight the significance of the sun often depicted on the armour. 

She is currently continuing her exploration of armour through the use of different specimens and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Claudia Fahrenkemper’s work is a true mastery of documentation photography. Her commitment to detail and scientific/historical accuracy is what truly sets her work above the rest. 

The curation invites the audience to enter a trance-like state when viewing her work. Each piece has space to breathe, so even though photographs surround you, it never feels overwhelming. 

 I am surprised that I had never heard of Claudia Fahrenkemper before that night, primarily due to the extensive history of photography courses I took during my BFA. So I highly recommend going to see this exhibition before time runs out. To not only further educate yourself on this artist but to see how artistic curiosity furthers innovations that allow others to see everyday items in a new light.


All the information used to create this blog is found within the exhibition catalogue provided by the Stephen Bulger Gallery. All artwork and archival photographs are not my property; their rights and ownership are connected to their respectful owners in full.


If you check out the exhibition let me know! I would love to hear your take on Claudia’s work or just which piece stands out for you. 

- Sarah Zanchetta

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