When the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, the tunnels at the University of Manitoba become a refuge. Shielding students from flurries and aiding the commute to class, these dismal environments of pipes and grey corridors generally have all the aesthetic appeal of a bomb shelter. Only one creative flourish brightens up these forlorn spaces — Takashi Iwasaki’s mural. Composed of quirky amoeba-like shapes, in bright colours that morph wildly through about 10 feet of space in the tunnel by University Center, the mural is one of the most celebrated sights on campus.
Noticing that the U of M’s aesthetic environment could use an Iwasaki-level overhaul, the University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) has collaborated with the university on the three-piece Collaboration to Promote Art and Music (CPAM) project. Accordingly, the project’s mandate aims to “improve the artistic and aesthetic environment at the university in a way that promotes the creative talents of the university’s students and encourages celebration and promotion of student engagement.”
The project is currently set to include Tunnel Vision, which will oversee the creation of art and murals in areas of the tunnel system, specifically throughout the Machray Hall to Fletcher Argue section. Sculptural Experience will be a juried competition for the creation and installation of a work of sculpture on the University Center patio, which may initiate the creation of a student sculpture garden on campus. Random Acts of Music includes musical performances by students at select times and locations on both Bannatyne and Fort Garry Campuses.
Heather Laube, vice-president (student services), was a driving force behind the program. She explained, “I felt that this was important because this is something that should have been initiated years ago. Promoting creative student talent is necessary to the artistic and aesthetic environment at the university [campuses], and, most of all, it encourages and celebrates student engagement.”
A recent graduate from the University of Manitoba school of art, Laube saw a need for a “more cultural interactive experience on campus.” She explained that the project came from an idea the UMSU executive had last spring to improve the aesthetic environment of the tunnels. Through the support of professors and students, Laube created a project that she felt would showcase the university’s talent. She is co-chairing the CPAM committee with Alan Simms, the associate vice-president (administration). The committee consists of student representatives, faculty members and university staff who are actively trying to promote student talent and improve the artistic environment on campus.
To some observers, these three initiatives are particularly well-timed, as the next month at the Gallery of Student Art (GoSA) being dedicated to student groups rather than individual artists, and general attitudes toward art on campus seem to be wavering. Laube, however, is optimistic. “Student artists, student groups, anyone can be an artist and everyone is an artist in their own right. As a student community we work together to express ourselves as well as work individually to communicate our talent. I feel that this project will embrace the student talent that is present at the U of M whether that be in a group or solo work of art,” she said.
Laube said that students from all three University of Manitoba campuses — Selkirk Inner-City, Bannatyne and Fortv Garry — are invited to submit their ideas. Application deadlines are Friday, Nov. 13 for all three programs, and contracts are expected to be awarded by Dec. 4. Successful applicants will not only get to leave their creative mark on campus, but they will be awarded an honorarium and reimbursement to cover the cost of supplies.
Applications can be found online at the University of Manitoba’s website, and can be dropped off at either the main UMSU office (101 University Center) or Room 202 Administration Building.