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Ukranian designer Maria Bilinska discovers the therapeutic qualities of art during war – The Globe and Mail



In an email interview with the Globe and Mail, Maria Bilinska discussed her ‘gold city’ design theme and creating art in a time of devastating conflict in Ukraine.Handout

“Art is a kind of therapy in this war,” says Maria Bilinska, who lives near the Polish border in Lviv. In the first days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the graphic designer and illustrator did little other than watch the news on television. Then she began creating posters about the war. “It was very helpful mediation.”

Bilinska’s first major project after the invasion was to design the cover art for the Ukrainian edition of Sailing to Sarantium, a historical fantasy novel about an artist’s journey through wild and dangerous lands. First published in 1998, it was written by bestselling Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay.

In an email interview, she discussed her “gold city” design theme and creating art in a time of devastating conflict.

Sailing to Sarantium is the first book in the author’s two-part The Sarantine Mosaic. How did having a mosaicist in the story influence your cover design?

Mostly in the colour palette. I love how the author describes the passion of the mosaicist’s works, how light influences an image he creates. It’s very poetic, and it is why I choose yellow, almost gold, for the cover. When I read a book to create a cover for it, I think in slightly different categories than the average reader. I think in visual way. Historic events aren’t as important as, for example, the amazement of the main character with the mosaic in a chapel or the part about a golden tree and mechanical birds.

Did the current war in Ukraine have any effect on design ideas?

Sailing to Sarantium was the first book I read after Feb. 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. And it’s interesting thing, not only in my case, but a lot of my friends too – I couldn’t read anything bigger than an article. All my thoughts were about news from war. I couldn’t switch it off. So, I spent more time than usual reading this book and feeling its atmosphere.

Do you live in a dangerous area of the country?

We are relatively safe, but we have air alarms and a few missile attacks. People here are trying to learn how to live in a new reality. We help refugees from eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. Some of them lived in our country house for a while.

Aside from reading the book, what kind of research did you conduct?

Everything began with reading a book and noting details and my impressions, etc. Then I read about mosaics and Byzantine churches, and looked at different mosaics from Hagia Sophia, a mosque in Istanbul. We have mosaics in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv too.

Did you go with your first impressions when conceiving the design theme?

The first cover idea was to use the story about mechanical birds, which, in my opinion, is a very powerful metaphor in this book. But after a conversation with the publisher we decided to go with a travel theme, gold city. The style of the cover is modern, but I included a small ship which was depicted from an ancient mosaic. In this way, past and present are combined.

In general, what are your thoughts on what a book’s cover illustration needs to accomplish?

I believe it must build a new, parallel line of the book’s story, not depict exactly what happened in it. This is more interesting for the readers, because they can see the story from different points of view – author, illustrator and their own.

The author of the book, Guy Gavriel Kay, praised your work, saying that art in a time of a brutal invasion is hard. Can you talk about that?

First of all, I want to say, that Ukrainian publishers who publish new books now are heroes. Almost 90 per cent of big printing shops in Ukraine are located in Kharkiv, near the Russian border. The city is bombed often and has sustained a lot of damage to its infrastructure. Printing shops are destroyed. Also, we have problems with paper. Yet, in this hard time, publishers create and publish new books. I think it’s amazing.

We see the footage, but I don’t think people here get a sense of the day-to-day lives of Ukrainians.

It’s really hard logistically, because a lot of workers are fighting in the war. It’s hard in a financial way, but it’s hard emotionally too. Every Ukrainian have the same thought: “Is my work important and needed when hundreds of people are dying right now?”

And your answer?

Art, especially books, is a very important tool in this war. Because we are fighting a cultural war too. Russia has tried to appropriate our culture for years, and we can’t stop even for a minute in this war.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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What Should We Expect of Art? – The New York Times



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What Should We Expect of Art?  The New York Times

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Concordia's Art Volt Collection aims to help launch the careers of fine art grads — University Affairs – University Affairs



The initiative includes a ‘bootcamp’ in art marketing and sales skills.

A newly launched art collection aims to support graduating students and recent alumni of Concordia University’s faculty of fine arts as they launch their careers in the competitive commercial market, while simultaneously giving the general public an opportunity to buy or rent artworks.

The Art Volt Collection (AVC) is the latest initiative of Art Volt, a platform launched in March 2020 with a variety of programs helping to help Concordia’s fine arts alumni as they transition out of school.

The new collection features about 140 artworks from 25 artists working in a variety of media, including print, painting, photography, video, ceramics and textile installations. The collection officially launched with an event at Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal on May 17.

“It’s very important for artists to have support in the years after they graduate,” said Camille Bédard, head of AVC. “The three to five years that follow graduation are the most critical ones, because this is when artists decide if they will continue or not in their artistic path. Art Volt is there, at this pivotal moment for them.”

The not-for-profit service is supported by the Peter N. Thomson Family Innovation Fund. In 2019, the Peter N. Thomson Family Trust gave a $5.6 million gift to Concordia’s faculty of fine arts. That donation supports three areas, including the innovation fund. Each year, the AVC will make a call for submissions to acquire new art, from artists who have graduated in the past five years. Graduating students and alumni submit their work to be reviewed by a professional jury, made up of faculty, artists and curators.

Twenty-five artists were selected for the first collection, a number that could grow in the future, Ms. Bédard said. The artists’ work is showcased online, providing exposure and connections to patrons interested in renting or buying pieces, and there’s are also plans for future in-person exhibitions.

Another major component of AVC is professional development. Prior to the collection’s launch, the first group of artists attended a day and a half of “bootcamp” training, covering topics including how to properly package artwork, price pieces, and how to write a bio and artistic statement. “All the workshops that we give at the bootcamp are skills that they don’t necessarily learn at school, but they need,” Ms. Bédard said.

That focus on professional development, alongside the jury process for selection, sets the collection apart from other university initiatives that rent or sell student art. “It’s really about supporting their careers as they enter their professional life. We’re covering a wide range of skills that are part of the artistic life, but that you don’t learn while you’re at school,” Ms. Bédard said. “Art Volt is somewhat of a transition between university and real life.”

One of the artists in the first collection is Alexey Lazarev, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary visual artist who graduated from Concordia in 2019. He first participated in the Art Volt platform’s workshops and presentations before successfully submitting his work to the collection. A few of his pieces sold at the launch event, and a few more have sold through the collection’s website.

“Participating in a program like this has helped me understand the realities of the business, what it takes to be an artist, and to have some sales and make some money. It’s also good for visibility and to make new connections,” Mr. Lazarev said. “I think more universities should do a program like this; it really adds value.”

While the program’s model is unique to Concordia, Ms. Bédard sees opportunity for other universities to adapt it to meet their own needs. “I would suggest thinking, what do your artists and students need, in terms of making it into the art world? What can you offer them to help them? Maybe it’s providing them with skills and certain tools, or maybe it’s exposure,” she said.

Already, the collection has helped showcase student artists to the broader university community by providing opportunities to buy or rent original art. “There are lots of offices in universities but there was previously no way to have artworks by students in those offices,” Ms. Bédard said. “With the collection, we’ll bring artworks of Concordia students into Concordia offices, instead of having just random artworks.”

Anyone can purchase or rent artwork from the collection, but first they have to become a member of the AVC. Annual memberships start at $25, and philanthropic donations of $250 or more include automatic membership in the collection, alongside other perks. Artists set their own prices for their pieces, and the AVC takes a 30 per cent commission on sales, which Ms. Bédard said is lower than the industry standard of 50 per cent.

Already, plans are underway to expand what is available through the AVC so that graduating students and alumni from all nine departments in Concordia’s faculty of fine arts are eligible for transitional support. Acquiring a theatre play is not the same as acquiring a painting, Ms. Bédard said, so the focus will be less on buying and selling and more on providing artists with increased visibility and connections in their fields.

One way to do that is through partnerships. For example, performances will take place this August and September featuring the work of Concordia students in dance, visual arts and theatre at Art POP, the visual arts segment of the POP Montreal International Music Festival.

“The collection has just started, and already there are so many more ideas that we have in mind to develop,” Ms. Bédard said. “Having access to that visibility and exposure is really key.”

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Urban art and music festival in Sudbury this weekend – CTV News Northern Ontario



Preparations are underway in downtown Sudbury for the Up Here Festival this weekend.

It’s an urban art and musical event to brighten the downtown with colourful murals and showcase emerging music.

Twin brothers, originally from Halifax, are painting the first mural at the Up Here Festival 2022.

Using a scissor lift, paint cans and brushes, the artists said this creation is called Moose and Bear.

“We wanted to do something big and bold and colourful and friendly that is approachable since it’s such a public area. So yah like everyone loves animals, everyone loves colourful paintings,” said artist Greg Mitchell.

The twin brothers now live in Toronto and operate a creative agency called Born in the North. They were invited artists to take part in the festival.

“I love being a part of it. It’s like a huge compliment too to to be trusted with this massive wall for the festival. I think it’s the first one that is being done for the festival so it’s a big honour and yes it’s just really fun to be outside all day paining this,” said Chris Mitchell.

The Up Here Festival kicks off this Friday featuring urban art activities for all ages and eclectic music.

“Paint a bunch of new murals within the downtown core and we present emerging acts so some of the best emerging talent from across the country,” said Christian Pelletier, a co-founder of the Up Here Festival.

“So not necessarily big names that everyone knows but a lot of acts that are going to be headliners of tomorrow.”

The festival has been running for eight years now and organizers said it’s growing each year.

“For us the project really started as an idea you know of beautifying the downtown core and it has quickly transformed into a way to engage with the community. To put up art that challenges people’s perspectives that also adds a little bit of quirk and wonder to their daily routine,” said Pelletier.

Up Here Square is a unique area on Durham Street.

Organizers said there will be a number of concerts throughout the weekend that are pay as you can to make them accessible to everyone.

For more information on the festival, visit their website.

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