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How digital art helped students at Peterborough's Trent University make the most of the pandemic –



'Dark #1' (digital photograph, 2021) from "Captivating" by Stephanie Etherington, part of the "Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online" virtual exhibition by Trent University students available on Artspace Peterborough's website. (Photo courtesy of Artspace)
‘Dark #1’ (digital photograph, 2021) from “Captivating” by Stephanie Etherington, part of the “Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online” virtual exhibition by Trent University students available on Artspace Peterborough’s website. (Photo courtesy of Artspace)

Though Trent University in Peterborough lacks any official fine arts programs, the university’s Cultural Studies Department has a history of offering applied-arts courses and practical workshops. By merging theory and practice, the studio courses offer students the opportunity to think by doing; to critique and create culture.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these applied-arts courses offered Trent students not only a unique approach to learning, but also a safe haven during an otherwise impossible time for students.

Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Onlinea virtual exhibition available on Artspace Peterborough’s website until August 31 — features artworks created in some of Trent’s courses encompassing the Cultural Studies integrated arts platform.

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The online exhibition demonstrates the students’ innovative and insightful approaches to art making during the pandemic. Above all, however, the exhibit is a testament to the artists’ collective resiliency.

“I am very grateful for experiencing the Cultural Studies Department and classes the way I did,” says Raine Knudsen, whose stop-motion film ‘Connection’ plays with energy in movement.

“Despite everything that’s going on and despite all of the limitations that we’re facing, we’re still able to connect and we’re still able to nurture that part of ourselves and our human experience — even if it happens to be in different ways,” continues Knudsen.

“Being in the Cultural Studies Department during the pandemic has been really different from other departments,” adds Zoe Easton, who created a series of digital photographs entitled ‘Soft Places’.

“It is really hard to make art when you’re so overwhelmed by the world around you, but these courses were really good for encouraging us to put our personal experiences into the art,” Easton says. “For example, my project for this exhibit is about healing and specifically about the time that I took during the pandemic to go outside and be in nature.”

VIDEO: “Connection” by Raine Knudsen
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Indeed, many of the Culture X artists interviewed for this article spoke of the therapeutic elements they discovered through art making and community building.

“One of the most amazing things about this class was being able to see the perspective of all my classmates through their art,” recalls Shaun Phuah, whose video collage ‘People Looking at Me Looking at Them’ investigates the immediacy of the highly intimate and often-volatile personal spaces we see online.

“In a way, we were all dealing with the same things,” Phuah continues. “I thought it was just really touching to be able to experience that through the class and through my classmates in that way.”

“There is such a sense of community in the Cultural Studies department,” says Stephanie Etherington, whose major is in business administration.

“It was quite interesting to see other people’s interpretation of the pandemic within their work. We really fed off of one another’s energies and ideas,” says Etherington, whose series of digital photographs entitled ‘Captivating’ plays with colour, light, movement, and texture says. “It’s actually quite funny that the whole class ended up having this experience indulging in colour.”

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“We all sort of became friends,” explains Mridul Harbhajanka, whose playful musical composition ‘Spook-Key Tunes’ generates unique results, depending on the performers’ names, every time it is performed. “I created the piece during exam season. Having something fun to do between all these boring essays and exams was like a stress buster. This class played a huge role in how I view music. Without the course, I don’t think I would be able to come up with the idea for my composition.”

During a time when many artists have struggled or even resisted creating and disseminating digital art, the Culture X artists faced the challenges of digital art making head on.

“For a long time, I was trying to overcome the limitations of the digital,” explains Katy Catchpole, whose digital video ‘Own Undoing’ was awarded Trent’s prestigious Frith prize this year.

“It was almost a very negative approach — we were stuck in this pandemic, and we couldn’t be together, and we couldn’t produce art the way that we normally would — but I kind of got tired of that,” Catchpole says.

“I wanted to approach it from a more positive perspective, to think about how digital art can be manipulated, maybe in ways it wasn’t intended. So instead of thinking of digital art as this fixed static thing, I started to think about it more as painting or sculpture.”

'Selective Memory #4' (oil on paper, 2021) from  "Selective Memory" by Lindsay Olivieri. "For this series, I drew screenshots from archived home movies and framed the images in a way that replicates the appearance of a printed digital photograph one could get at their local Shoppers Drug Mart or Walmart." (Photo courtesy of Artspace)
‘Selective Memory #4’ (oil on paper, 2021) from “Selective Memory” by Lindsay Olivieri. “For this series, I drew screenshots from archived home movies and framed the images in a way that replicates the appearance of a printed digital photograph one could get at their local Shoppers Drug Mart or Walmart.” (Photo courtesy of Artspace)

For Carolina Engering and Ceilidh Peters, both students of the theatre course Performance and Protest, creating and presenting ‘Gender Inequality’ — their work of invisible theatre — online brought its challenges.

“Usually, invisible theatre is like a play, but the audience — the spectators — don’t know what’s happening,” Engering explains. “They don’t know there’s a play being performed, and they don’t know they’re part of the play. It’s experimental. It checks what they’ll do morally in a situation, usually involving oppression; it checks if they’ll be involved or not”

“Zoom was a huge challenge for us,” she continues. “We couldn’t go out in public, and invisible theatre is usually performed out in public in random areas, like a bus stop or something.”

“We originally set it up as being a presentation on gender inequality — that’s what the class thought they were watching — but the real performance we staged was this horribly racist attack towards one of the people in our group,” adds Peters.

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“Art really helps to humanize other people’s experiences,” Ceilidh concludes. “It helps people to visualize how other people live and be able to fully embrace the experiences that come with that.”

Though challenging, remote learning on Zoom increased accessibility for Culture X artist Jinian Raine, who has two works, ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Invisible Screen’, featured in the exhibit.

“I have a chronic illness and I’ve had one of the worst health years I’ve had in a very, very long time,” Raine explains.

A frame from "Invisible Screen" (animated GIF, 2021) by Jinian Raine. "I made Invisible Screen with the intention of embracing the very makeup of the digital and using it to the advantage of the pieces rather than the detriment." (Image courtesy of Artspace)
A frame from “Invisible Screen” (animated GIF, 2021) by Jinian Raine. “I made Invisible Screen with the intention of embracing the very makeup of the digital and using it to the advantage of the pieces rather than the detriment.” (Image courtesy of Artspace)

“So if we hadn’t been on Zoom, I would not have been able to go to class,” Raine adds. “I was lucky that we were going through Zoom because I could do school from my bed, which is where I needed to do it.”

“Honestly, I think this class is possibly a pivotal moment in my life because I have kind of fallen in love with digital art and the art that I’ve made. This class has changed my life trajectory because of how much I fell in love with making art in it.”

To view the profound works of art that so strongly speak to the conditions in which they were created, Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online can be accessed until August 31st on the Artspace website at

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Open Studios and Drive-By Art returns to Jamestown on August 7 – What'sUpNewp



Open Studios and Drive-By Art returns to Conanicut Island on Saturday, August 7 from 10 am – 5 pm. Jointly hosted by the Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) and Conanicut Island Art Association (CIAA), Open Studios is a one-day, island-wide event where participating artists invite the public into their studios or to see their work outside while passing by. 

There are more than 30 participating artists across the island as well as groups of artists with pop-up displays at Out of the Box Studio and Gallery and behind the JAC on Douglas Street. From 10 am to 3 pm at the Community Mural Wall at the JAC, all are welcome to join in a participatory project called the “People’s Patchwork,” which will offer coloring sheets based on the Ohio Star quilting pattern.  

Participating artists of Open Studios and Drive-By Art include: Shirley Bell, Coffee Bell, Kathleen Caswell, Rose M Chase, Clancy Designs Glass Studio, Bernie Courtney, Daniel Dunn, Joannie Ellie, David Gagnon, Joanne Koehler, Deb Lichtenstein, Sue Mailloux, Jody Pandelidis, Wilson Pollock, Elaine S Porter, Christopher T Terry, Ernie Wulff, Honest Forms, Jillian Barber, Looking Upwards, Peter Diepenbrock, Peter Marcus, Kelly McDermott, Rick Meli, Out of the Box Studio and Gallery, Melanie Saunders, Susan Schaffer, Gillian Stoneburner, Didi Suydam, Brad Vaccaro, and Christi Work. 

Maureen Coleman, Executive Director of the JAC, explains “Last summer, we expanded the number of participating artists and added outdoor Drive-By Art as a way to bring art to the community during the peak COVID-19 restrictions. The community was so enthusiastic that we are continuing with that expanded format this summer. Jamestown is home to so many talented artists, so it’s exciting to have this one day of special inside access to their studios and artwork. With more than 30 artists participating, there’s a huge variety of artwork to explore!”

An interactive tour map is available on the JAC’s website: It provides full details on participating artists, their location, hours, and more. Flyers will be available at the JAC beginning at 10 am on August 7 or the map can be accessed on your mobile phone for point-to-point directions. In case of inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, August 8 from 10 am – 5 pm. 

At a Glance: 

WHO: Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) and Conanicut Island Art Association (CIAA) bring together 30+ local artists

WHAT: Open Studios and Drive-By Art

WHERE: Artist studios throughout Jamestown, detailed map available at 

WHEN: Saturday, August 7, 10 am – 5 pm (rain date on Sunday, August 8) 

The Jamestown Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts space that hosts art exhibits, theatre, dance and musical performances, film screenings, and educational programming including artist talks and hands-on art classes for all ages. The JAC opened in 2010 in a former boat repair shop redesigned by award winning architects Estes/Twombly. Since 2014, it’s won 5 of Rhode Island Monthly’s ‘Best of Rhode Island’ awards, including the Editor’s Pick for Outdoor Art in 2021.

Programming partners include: Heifetz International Music Institute, FirstWorks, RISCA, FabNewport, RISD, Manhattan Short Film Festival, SENE Film Festival, Spectrum Theatre, Providence Art and Design Film Festival, Island Moving Company, the Jamestown Schools, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, The Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Acting & Directing Program and many individual artists and local organizations. The Jamestown Arts Center has quickly become a leading arts and cultural hub for Rhode Island and beyond, where creativity, ideas, and innovation flourish. For more information visit:

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By Robynblair Talks The Art Of Merchandise And Collaborations – Forbes



Making a living as an artist today isn’t easy. Financial success is extremely rare. Merchandise and collaborations are two of the best ways to spread brand awareness and establish a loyal customer base. And no one has mastered this quite the way Instagram’s “Candy Artist” Robyn Blair Davidson aka by robynblair has.

With prices for her work starting at $3200 for an original 16 x 24 inch piece, these ventures have allowed the artist’s brand to grow. “Many collectors absolutely start off high-end and become repeat customers whenever I have a new drop. However, I know that other clients are saving up for their first custom piece, but get their fix on the lower price-point items,” Davidson tells me. 

Sweet Beginnings

After her brand started to grow in popularity in 2018, the artist launched her first collaboration with Name Glo. “I was a client of theirs before I started by my brand. Right in the beginning, the founders and I went to lunch and I told them about my art and how happy I was about the piece I made for myself. Right then and there we decided to join forces, making my pieces with their neon on top.” 

That grew into a pop-up at American Two Shot in Soho, which then turned into a spot at the Affordable Art Fair with Art Star. “As luck would have it, the Vice President of Home from Bergdorf Goodman walked through, saw our pieces, and asked us to be their next Artist in Residence. It was an incredible journey and I was so glad to do it together with Name Glo.”

Davidson feels she made smart business decisions from the beginning, and expanding the brand early was a logical step. “It was important to me that from the beginning I could offer different price points to my clients. My goal at the end of the day is truly to make people happy and smile through my art and my designs.”

Making Art Accessible

Davidson has always felt it’s important to diversify her offerings because it allows as many people as possible to enjoy her work. “I love that I can offer the principles behind my brand at various price points. It’s huge for taking a business like mine to the next step, especially since the core product is on the higher end.” 

The theme and vibe of Davidson’s work truly lends itself to a variety of products and merchandise. For example, the lollipop swirl placemats and coasters coordinate perfectly with her art. 

The cake serving set is another example of her sophisticated approach to brand expansion. While it is packaged in a sprinkle print box, the pieces have modern white handles and the blade features Davidson’s signature statement box reading “Eat Cake.” At $85, it’s accessibly priced and a great introduction to the brand.

But Davidson is extremely particular. She doesn’t just slap her name or branding on any product. “I like to start with the story,” she says, “For me, if there isn’t a good story behind a piece or collection, it isn’t worth building out. For example, with the Hostess Collection, the story was that we all wanted to gather again. And with our placemats and coasters, I made sure that your gathering would be that much sweeter.”

There are also has several less expensive, giftable merchandise offerings including baseball caps, iPhone cases she designed with Off My Case, as well as puzzles.

The Queen Of Collaboration

Davidson has collaborated and co-branded a list of products. This includes Mini Melanie cookie boxes, Baby Noomie children’s pajamas, Apparis furry flip-flops, as well as with Stephanie Gottlieb on a jewelry box.

Most recently, the artist created keepsake acrylic boxes with celebrity-lauded brand BondEye Jewelry (Olivia Rodrigo and Gabrielle Union are fans) on a box that was sent out to their VIP customers. “I love projects like this, especially when I know my art will be seen by new people and used in a special way. I’m also a huge fan of Jess [Klein, the founder] personally and professionally,” she tells me. 

Still, Davidson is still very particular about who she works with. “It’s important for me to make sure the collab makes sense for both brands, and do more long-term ventures together instead of the quick, one-offs that are definitely tempting, but not as sweet.”

Three Cheers 

In summer 2021, Davison launched a line of Spritzy Rosé with Cooper’s Hawk featuring three colorful ombre-style labels. She was also very involved with product development, even doing a tasting with Tim McEnery, who founded the brand. “The Cooper’s Hawk collab was the dream scenario for me,” the artist says. “I love rosé and was so excited when they reached out to me. The team at Cooper’s Hawk offered me complete creative control, which was both gratifying and humbling. Together we made a set of wine that I am incredibly proud of.”

Cooper’s Hawk Winery produces approximately 700k cases of wine each year and has received over 500 awards in various local, national, and international wine competitions.

What’s Next

As for the future, Davison plans to continue her very successful business model. “I am very intentional with the projects I pursue, and make sure that in each category I partner with the best or I consult with experts to make sure everything I launch is a success. I am very proud of this because I know how easy it is to spread yourself thin and just do it all.”

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Culture camp teaching about world through art – Toronto Star



Habitat of the Arts is open for the summer and with that comes all of their amazing new camps.

A new camp that just started this year is the culture camp

Habitat usually has art camps, even theatre camps, but they felt that they were missing something.

With the unfortunate events of COVID the past year, Jasper hasn’t had many of its usual international visitors.

“It may not have much to do with our youth, but the whole community cannot help but feel that void,” said Marianne Garrah, director of Habitat for the Arts.

Heritage Canada has come out with some grants to renew and revive the arts.

“Why not make art more visible when our visitors return? How can we do that? How can we include our youth?” Garrah asked.

And with that came the first year of the culture camp.

Habitat noticed a need to engage our youth in art and education and build towards an appreciation for the world that chooses Jasper for their holidays.

Tina Byrd will be running the camp. She has designed the program on what she would have loved to have had access to when she was young.

“Imagine being 10 and being given all the tools and paint and inspiring enthusiastic instructor and the freedom to just do,” Garrah said.

Besides running the culture camp, Byrd also works at the elementary school.

The culture camp is all geared towards learning about the world through the power of art.

Jasper relies a lot on its visitors. But how much do youth know about where they come from?

“How do we ensure our youth appreciate the cultures that come here?” Garrah asked.

The culture camp has guests coming to share their real-world experiences with the youth.

A couple of the cultures that the youth will learn about will be Mexico, Indigenous Canada and Africa. Each day, they will also get to try food from the country of the day.

The camp is similarly designed from the multicultural night that Habitat of the Arts ran in previous years.

The camp starts on Aug. 2 and will run up until Aug. 13, ending with a fair in the park, weather permitting.

The kids will be designing their own “fair” throughout the duration of the camp.

“I think we underestimate the potential to consult youth when it comes to community engagement,” Garrah said.

The kids will get to make masks, paint like impressionists, create mandalas and learn about colour and even Bhangra dance.

The camp will highlight the need for youth to engage in the arts for diversity and inclusion.

The youth will be distanced for health and safety and making as much art as they can in the nine days.

There are only a few spots left, so contact for details.

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