Where You Least Expect It

article by Erika Sampson

Ottawa Arts Review is a student-led art publication that means a lot to me. It does not matter where I am, whether in Ottawa, or Toronto, or even internationally, there are ties that always link me back to OAR. I am reminded constantly of my involvement, in subtle and not so subtle ways. It is important to take “birds’ eye views” on major elements of your life sometimes, to truly grasp their benefits and seriousness. When using a third party lens to analyse this personal OAR opportunity, I am astonished at what I have managed to get out of it. I am blessed to be a member of the team.

Though I have only been involved with OAR since this January, this extracurricular has given me both niche opportunities, and utmost joy that I did not know was possible. The big takeaway that I would like to stress is that if you are looking to get involved at your university, if you are looking to build your resume, if you are looking to submit your artwork for potential recognition, then consider working with OAR. In all honesty, giving OAR my time and energy for the last six months has proven difficult, with work on top of school. Yet, it is because of this that I have been allotted long term rewards that I did not see coming in January: I appreciate art more thoroughly and genuinely, I was provided with transferable work skills, and I have been able to grasp the weight and power of print publications.

It should come as no surprise that becoming more involved in an organization that publishes art would increase my appreciation for it. Logistically speaking, being asked to critique poetry, photography, paintings, and drawings would mean my eye for art is being trained more diligently. I suppose though, one cannot anticipate the amount of influence something will have on them. I have always enjoyed art, and I did not know I could possibly enjoy it more. But now I understand art, and there is a difference between enjoying and understanding something.

In the last three weeks, I have been lucky enough to visit three different art galleries in three different cities. On each visit I was better able to assess and essentially pick apart the subjects because of my experience with weekly rating exposure. For example, one of my favourite artists is Norval Morrisseau, who was a whimsical Indigenous painter (I think I will cover this in my next blog post, so stay tuned). I was able to see authentic, massive Morrisseau’s at two out of my three recent gallery excursions. Talk about being fortunate.

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Installation view of all six panels of Norval Morrisseau, Man Changing into Thunderbird, 1977, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

The Morrisseau fanatic in me has been amplified because I feel like I actually see his paintings now. It was as if before I merely looked at them, but now I actually understand them. Now I ponder art, regarding techniques, intentions, meanings, etc. I am by no means an art history major (although at times I wish I was), but OAR has given me a chance to finally explore a passion that I always had. OAR has let me bring art to life.=

My involvement with OAR as an extracurricular in school has also boded well on my resume. If there are any co-op students reading this, then you know how stressful it is to find yourself a work placement. It was crunch time in March-April, and many people were scrambling to find their spots, myself included. My initial work placement had fallen through due to a sudden lack of funding, so overnight I fell into full blown panic mode. I ended up entering into a last minute round of potential co-op pairings, to which I discovered a history job that I desperately wanted. I applied, got an interview, and subsequently got top pick for the job.

After receiving the position, I consulted their grading sheet and notes on my interview. Interestingly, OAR came up many times in their comments. My now current employers (yay!) liked that I was not only involved with an academic extracurricular, but also one which allowed me to develop critical thinking, analysis, and organizational skills. They told me during my first week that becoming immersed in clubs outside of school that benefit the development of life skills is generally noticeable in successful candidates. They liked that despite not being an English major, I was involved in something outside of my faculty. In short, because of my involvement in OAR (paired with other elements on my resume too of course), I was able to get a fantastic placement in co-op.

Lastly, because of OAR I have been able to grasp the real meaning and weight behind publication. This sounds vague, but stick with me. I have always read constantly, whether fiction or nonfiction. Books mean a lot to me, and they have since I was very little. The action of physically holding and leafing through a book is one that most take for granted. Being able to actually hold words is an irreplaceable feeling.

You can imagine my surprise when I was in Value Village recently, hunting through the literature section, and discovering a 2013 volume of OAR. I actually squealed. Thus far my involvement with OAR has been mostly digital. The subpacks that I receive are all done via email, and before discovering the 2013 volume titled Throwback (oh, the irony), I had never actually held a real copy of OAR before. This was monumental, and it was in that moment that I understood the potential of OAR. This Throwback copy had been stuck between King Lear, and a beat up copy of Edgar Allen Poe. Our Throwback was up on a shelf with incredible classics, and I finally got the significance. At OAR, we are creating a real-life piece of work: a publication that is filled with local artists, that has the potential to sit on a real shelf, sandwiched between the Greats.

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So there it is, stuck between some of my all time favourite books, because it can. If you are interested in picking up the newest version of OAR (as I will be), then stay tuned for the upcoming release date. Create meaning and embrace when others do. As university students we need to appreciate when our fellow classmates create something meritable. So let us celebrate Ottawa Arts Review, for it truly is a safe place to celebrate art.

Thank you, Ottawa Arts Review.

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