Emily Doucet, Victoria Nikkel, Kendell Row, Stephanie Taylor and Jessica McKague are students in the U of W’s new Master’s in Cultural Studies program. – Serena Keshavjee
Finding a job is tough, even with a degree, and especially if you’re one who holds an ostensibly useless fine arts degree in a highly competitive field.
There is, however, a bright light emerging on the academic horizon for those desiring to pursue careers in arts and culture.
The University of Winnipeg announced its new Master’s in Cultural Studies with a focus in Curatorial Practices and is now accepting students for September 2011.
The new degree, which partners with the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Buhler Gallery and Plug In ICA, will prepare students to work in the vibrant and expansive field of arts and culture in Winnipeg and abroad.
The courses will be geared to students who wish to work in this field, and hold a four-year BA in areas such as English, anthropology, history, art history, cultural studies or material cultures.
Professor Serena Keshavjee, who co-ordinates the program, is optimistic about the opportunities this type of master’s will offer, extending beyond curatorial practices in galleries.
“Anyone who’s working with images, archives, public history, anybody wanting to be a contemporary art critic, writer or working in the mainstream media, would fit in quite well to this program,” she said.
“We’re going to be very open and offer a range of internships to students that are exciting for them.”
This could mean future jobs with cultural institutions like the Manitoba Museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, commercial galleries, historical societies, media outlets, civic galleries, artist-run centres and more.
In addition to a six-month internship, the courses will cover cultural studies theory and curatorial practices. Workshops will be led by local curators, including Stephen Borys (WAG), Anthony Kiendl (Plug In) and Patricia Bovey (Buhler Gallery), who brings 40 years of experience to the program.
“The University of Winnipeg is really into experiential learning,” said Keshavjee. “There really are a number of fantastic curators in Winnipeg. I want those people to come in and be part of the program.”
Until now, there has been no program of this kind offered in Manitoba, or even Saskatchewan.
The University of Manitoba will also be accepting students this fall, for a new Master of Fine Arts program, designed for studio artists.
The U of W offers undergraduate internships and courses in curatorial practice, but ultimately the training at the undergraduate level falls short of what is required.
“We talked to the gallery directors and gallery owners, and they’ve said that because there’s no master’s degree in art history in Manitoba, they usually have to go out of province to hire, and this is annoying to them,” said Keshavjee. “They want to hire Winnipeggers.”
The response in the local arts community has been positive.
“We need more curators in this city, as well as people who can write about art and educate the public on the value of art and the ideas behind art,” said Jordan Miller, director of Cre8ery Gallery.
“We have a lot of great artists in this city but we don’t have a lot of critical analysis going on.”
Local visual artist Kelly Ruth agreed.
“With the help of a strong curatorial community, artists can better expose their work to the greater population of Winnipeg, and inevitably create more of a buzz to attract other cities to pay attention to what we are doing,” she said.
The program, in the works since 2006, has already received more applicants than Keshavjee anticipated.
“It’s a competitive program,” she said. “A lot of students have applied. We are only letting in the best students, and hopefully those students will get really good jobs.”