In celebration of the visual arts department's 50th anniversary, Artlab Gallery is presenting the alumni exhibition Past Forward as well as “Despite a sense of loss there was an air of optimism” exhibited in the Visual Arts Centre's Cohen Commons area.

The exhibits are meant to discuss the progress and importance of the arts program.

“It’s all about reflecting on what we’ve done,” says Artlab Gallery Director, Susan Edelstein. 

Past Forward features over 300 images and text submitted by past graduates of Western University's studio and art history programs. 

Over the past year, the department contacted alumni for submissions for the show, asking for personally meaningful images and either a short text or a single word about their experience with the arts at Western.

The resulting collection is a tribute to the impact thst arts education has had for alumni from the program.

“People who are still practicing artists responded with their most recent art works,” says Edelstein, noting others took an alternative approach. “Somebody sent in a picture of their newborn baby, somebody else sent a picture of their wedding and then other people sent pictures of what they did when they were here.”

The images are displayed side by side along the perimeter of the gallery’s dimly lit walls, encouraging visitors to step close and experience each piece intimately as they tour the space. The alumni's messages are projected against a back wall and continue onto the floor like rolling credits.

“Some people mentioned certain profs and how it changed the direction of their lives,” adds Edelstein. “Other people wrote in that it was challenging but rewarding.”

In the formative years as undergraduate students, Edelstein explains that it's important to see how visual culture can affect future decisions.

“I think that if art opens people’s eyes to what they can become and have a fuller life then I think that’s really successful,” she says.

Located outside the entrance of the Artlab Gallery, the Cohen Commons area creates a nice introduction to Past Forward with its exhibition, “Despite a sense of loss there was an air of optimism”, guest curated by visual arts PhD student, Ruth Skinner.

Also making use of image and text, this second exhibit showcases a selection of graduate artworks and thesis essays gathered from Skinner during her work with curatorial ideas and archives. It complements Past Forward through its analysis of the past and present growth of the arts.

The opening reception will be held on Sept. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. 


Culture Editor

Amy is a second year English and Visual Arts student in Western's faculty of Arts and Humanities. This is her first year as a culture editor at the Gazette. For comments or feedback, email her at

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