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Music teaching app connects teachers and students from home

The Cadenza practice app developed at Queen’s is a growing hit with aspiring musicians in Canada and around the world during the COVID-19 crisis.

A girl practices playing a flute
For the Cadenza app, there has been a 10-fold increase in subscribers as a direct result of people staying at home due to COVID-19. (Supplied photo)

If you’ve been on social media since the COVID-19 crisis began, you’ve no doubt seen people busy making the most of their time at home by trying their hand at skills such as cooking, sewing, painting, and other hobbies.

You can add picking up a musical instrument to the mix. The Cadenza app was developed by Queen’s University researchers in collaboration with professors and developers at Concordia University and community partners and was launched late in 2019. It works by virtually linking a music teacher with a student, or group of students. There's been a 10-fold increase in subscribers as a direct result of people staying at home due to COVID-19.

“We’ve had new users from Italy, Switzerland, and Singapore since the pandemic began,” says Jodie Compeau, Project Manager for the Cadenza Community Project.

The greatest surge of users has come from the United Kingdom, followed by Canada and the United States.

“We work with a group in the UK called The Curious Piano Teachers,” says Compeau. “They advise us and have helped to get the word out by endorsing Cadenza as an effective music teaching platform.”

The web-based app, which represents a great example of research translated to social innovation, received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and was supported by the Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation team.

As of April, 250 teachers and 3,300 students have subscribed.

“We have teachers who have dozens of students, and schools have signed on that have lots of students, so the app really is becoming a popular tool,” says Rena Upitis, Professor of Education at Queen’s and principal investigator on the project.

The app was originally developed for students 12 years of age and older, but the creators have found students as young as six are using it.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve also noticed a number of adult learners are wanting to play again,” says Dr. Upitis. She also observed that, “When we first launched Cadenza we imagined it would be a 1:1 private teacher and student ratio. But group lessons are possible now. An instructor with 10 students can create a lesson and send it out to their students or add an attachment or annotate things.”

The app’s creators say one of the most surprising things they’ve experienced since launching the service was the sense of community that has emerged through the service.  

“It is a big adjustment to learn how to teach on a screen instead of face-to face. As a result, everyone supports one another,” says Compeau.

There is a graduating scale of payment, depending on the number of students, for this web-based app.

“We weren’t expecting to be in the black until mid- 2021. Any money we have generated is going back into the app to make it better,” says Dr. Upitis. “We’ve been getting great user feedback, and if we can, we make changes.”

The Cadenza team is setting its sights on breaking into the U.S. market and has just joined forces with SPARK at St. Lawrence College to come up with a marketing strategy.

Anyone can access the app at the Cadenza website.

See the world from home

Experience art from around the globe through online collections and exhibitions with #AGNESFromHome.

Leiden, Netherlands
Leiden, Netherlands (Photo: Jose Zuniga via Unsplash)

If you are itching to take a trip, there may be no better time to do so than right now. No need to worry about COVID-19 or going against our efforts to physically distance – you can explore the cultural richness of Europe, Africa, and Canada’s far north from the comfort of your living room with #AGNESFromHome.

“There are few things capable of expanding our horizons in the ways that art can,” says Alicia Boutilier, Interim Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University. “Artists energize our imaginations and illuminate our individual experiences and our shared histories. As we maintain physical distancing, we hope you can find a connection to people, past and present, through our online collections and exhibitions.”

Leiden, Netherlands

Setting foot in Leiden is said to be like stepping into the 17th century. Heralded as the “city of discoveries”, the university town has been a science powerhouse for centuries — cultivating any number of groundbreaking researchers — but it is perhaps most notable as the birthplace of legendary painter, Rembrandt van Rijn.

As part of Agnes’ Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges exhibition you can take in the vibrancy of the Baroque master’s hometown in this short documentary, and get an up-close look at some of his most memorable works. Visit an interactive map of 17th-century Leiden for a look at the city’s incredible landmarks, and to see where the artist honed his craft and helped nurture the talents of countless pupils.

Afterward, take a deep dive into the free, fully-illustrated digital catalogue (in both English and French) detailing the early careers of Rembrandt and his peers, highlighting the exhibition’s included works, and offering broader context to Leiden’s historical and cultural profile at the time.

These online assets were produced as part of Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, a touring exhibition which debuted at Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre in August 2019 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. Experience many of the pieces included in the exhibit online by visiting The Bader Collection.


African Ivory exhibit brochure cover
Ivory figure created by a Lega artist from the region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The world’s second-largest continent boasts rich cultural diversity and an abundance of natural wonder.

As part of #AGNESFromHome, you can learn about the long-running exhibition The Art of African Ivory, which explores how African communities have used ivory to teach morality, convey social standing, heal wounds, safeguard communities, and in commerce.

The use of ivory does carry baggage however, so be prepared to spend some time at the intersection of art preservation and animal conservation. Art curators across the world have the dual responsibility of protecting ‘cultural ivory’ works, while also combating the pursuit of contraband ivory. Past Director of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African Art, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, spoke at Queen’s on the matter last fall—discussing historical African ivory art and wildlife conservation in her lecture Displaying Historical Ivory in Museums: Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room.

The Art of African Ivory exhibition features a number of pieces from the Agnes’ Justin and Elisabeth Lang Collection of African Art—one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada, with over 500 works created by primarily west and central African artists. You can view much of the African historical art collection online.

Baffin Island, Canada

Celebration and Drum Dancing from Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964

The most memorable elements of any journey are the people we meet along the way.

With the Picturing Arctic Modernity: North Baffin Drawings from 1964 exhibition’s online interactive experience, we are introduced to Terry Ryan, an artist and arts advisor who encouraged and collected drawings by Indigenous people in the North Baffin region over three months in 1964. Traveling to three communities that had no formalized art programs—Clyde River (Kanngiqtugaapik), Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), and Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk)—Ryan would distribute paper and pencils to local people at the start of his trips and purchase finished drawings on his way home. Together, the collection of drawings depicts profound perspectives of daily life, history, and memory during a time of profound social change for Inuit communities.

You can now reveal the stories behind the drawings with #AGNESFromHome. A selection of illustrations spanning Inuit identity, land, and history, can be viewed online. Each drawing is accompanied by special video interviews with the artists’ descendants and friends, who provide an intimate connection to the people, events, and themes of the era, while underscoring the importance of cultural heritage to communities today.

To learn more about contemporary and historical media created by Inuit, First Nations, and Métis artists from Turtle Island and across the world, visit the Agnes’ Indigenous Art Collection.

Queen’s hosts Inuit artist residency

Inuit women-centred filmmaking collective explores Indigenous culture, health, and multimedia.

Oana Spinu, Before Tomorrow (production still), copyright Arnait Video Productions, 2009
Oana Spinu, Before Tomorrow (Copyright Arnait Video Productions, 2009)

Update: Due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19, today’s Arnait events are cancelled. Find general information on the university's evolving response on the coronavirus COVID-19 information website.

Queen’s is hosting the world’s leading women-centred Inuit filmmaking collective, Arnait Video Productions, for a unique artist residency, running from March 10-16. Residency events are set to include Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s exhibition Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations special film screenings, a series workshops, and a public roundtable event and feast.

As of 2019, Arnait has produced over 20 works, including three fiction features, a documentary feature, two television series, 12 short and mid- length documentaries, one short and one mid-length fiction film, and two animated films. Queen’s University Archives is in the unique position of holding a substantial portion of the Arnait archive.

“The importance of Arnait’s residency and associated exhibition hinges on intergenerational knowledge sharing, bringing together amazing Elders and collaborators, students, and researchers, to keep the work alive and accessible,” says Susan Lord, Queen’s Professor of Film and Media, and Director of the Vulnerable Media Lab, which is hosting the residency. “Arnait’s legacy takes us deep into the process of honouring the land and all living beings—and the work women do to pass on these ways of knowing.”

If you're feeling sick, avoid attending gatherings, especially if you have a fever or a cough. To learn more, visit the Queen's Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website.

During the March 13 roundtable and feast, Arnait members Madeline Ivalu, Susan Avingaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, and Marie-Hélène Cousineau, will lead an intergenerational conversation about Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations (curated by Nakasuk Alariaq, Linda Grussani and Tamara de Szegheo Lang) and the process of revisiting and remediating the Arnait video archives, with the help of their translator Zipporah Ungalaq.

From March 10-12, Arnait members led a series of Unpacking the Archive/The Living Archive: Process and Pedagogy workshops at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts’ Art and Media Lab, speaking to a broad range of subjects, covering Inuit midwifery and traditional medicine, adoption and family, and filmmaking. During the workshops collective members will unpack the Queen’s archive of Arnait material in public and speak to the material they find of interest. Queen’s students will make recordings of these conversations, which will then made part of the Agnes Etherington exhibition.

Ultimately, the residency will centre on this archive and how the collective members want it treated, described, accessed, and remediated so that knowledge can be passed down to future generations in a manner that is ethically consistent with cultural practices.

“Arnait’s archive of decades of production materials are being digitized and described by students, and through conversations with the collective members,” says Dr. Lord, whose Vulnerable Media Lab is focused on the preservation, digitization, and remediation of audio-visual heritage by women, Indigenous and Metis peoples, and LGBTQ2 communities. “The Vulnerable Media Lab is a project and an infrastructure. The project is about the social ecology of both media making and the processes of preservation and access. This requires a lot of time and conversation to do in a way that is consistent with cultural practices. Numerous students are involved, including graduate students Sylvia Nowak and Valerie Noftle, and undergraduates Arvin Zhang and Ariane Grice.”

The Arnait residency, exhibition, and related events are part of the Archive/Counter-Archive project, supported by a SSHRC partnership grant and led by Janine Marchessault at York University. Other funders include the Visiting Artist in Residence fund of the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research); the Agnes Etherington Art Centre; the Faculty of Arts & Science, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity Fund, and the Poole Student Initiatives Fund Queen’s University; and the Leonard Schein Visiting Artist in Screen Culture in Film and Media Studies.

Learn more about the Arnait artist residency on the Vulnerable Media Lab website. Some of the residency’s film screenings are appearing as part of the Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival, profiled recently by the Queen’s Gazette.

James Carson appointed editor of Queen’s Quarterly

Queen’s University has appointed James Carson as editor of the Queen’s Quarterly effective March 1, 2020, following the retirement of its longstanding and distinguished editor Dr. Boris Castel.

Dr. Carson has been a faculty member in the Department of History at Queen’s since 1996 and a full professor since 2008. From 2006 to 2011 he was the associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, and from 2011 to 2016 he was the chair of the Department of History. Since 2017, he has been serving as the head of the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. He has a BA from the University of North Carolina, an MA from Tulane University, and a PhD from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Carson will bring a unique academic record and approach to his work at the Queen’s Quarterly which, since 1893, has been an interdisciplinary journal publishing analysis, opinion, and reflection in diverse academic and literary fields.  

Dr. Carson has an extensive and distinguished record of scholarship in the ethnohistory of Indigenous North America, enhanced by creative non-fiction and interdisciplinary publications in accessible prose that communicate his research and ideas to a wider audience. As associate dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science he founded Native South, an interdisciplinary journal that focuses on the Indigenous peoples of the southern United States. 

Dr. Carson will bring academic and literary experience, editorial and leadership skills, and strategic vision to his work with the Queen’s Quarterly.

Spotlight on human rights

The Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival runs from January 23 to April 18.

Still image from Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival film "Matar a Jesús".
Still image from Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival film, "Matar a Jesús".

Humanity’s global pursuit of human rights will take to a world-class stage for the third annual Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival, beginning January 23 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. Through music, theatre, dance, multimedia, and film, the festival will explore poignant stories of refugees, Indigenous identity and health, protest, disability, equity, and more.

“The arts are a powerful voice in promoting awareness and action in human rights,” says Tricia Baldwin, Director of The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen's University. “We are privileged to partner with diverse artists and human rights activists who have dedicated their lives to create a fairer and inclusive future for humanity.”

The performance series will launch with a screening of Alanis Obomsawin’s Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger – one of four festival films curated by Queen’s Department of Film and Media professors Susan Lord and Dorit Naaman. The film documents the story of a young Indigenous boy who spent all five years of his life in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments argued over who was responsible for paying for the boy’s care. More films will be screened in the following weeks, including Advocate, the story of Jewish-Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel; and Matar a Jesús, about the police’s handling of the murder of a young Colombian photographer’s father.

Among the festival’s live events will be a free performance installation entitled Firebirds in Motion, co-created by a Queen’s student and featuring collaborative contributions by Queen’s students and Kingston artists. The piece is set to explore the expansive theme of equity through dance, movement, and sound.

The festival’s live program will also feature the Art of Time Ensemble and Ralston String Quartet performing the history of protest music; dance performance The Mush Hole, a reflection on the Mohawk Institute residential school experience and; a multimedia exploration of the influence of refugee populations in their adopted countries. The Kingston Symphony will join Juno Award-winner Tom Wilson for Beautiful Scars, and the H’art Centre’s multimedia performance Small Things will look at parents’ experiences raising children with developmental disabilities.

“Nothing could be more important in this challenging political world climate, in which we are now immersed, than to inspire people to actively participate and create a political and legal environment that will protect world citizens from prejudice, hatred, and violence,” says Baldwin.

For more information on the Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival, visit the Isabel website.

Agnes offers seven new exhibitions

 Video works, ephemera and production material created by Arnait Video Productions are presented in Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations, one of seven new exhibitions in the Winter Season at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Supplied Photo)

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is celebrating seven powerful new exhibitions as it launches its Winter Season, from new works to a different look at classics, from the far north to the sky above.

Agnes curators and invited guest curators are presenting a rich range of art dating from the 1500s to the current moment, including several recently acquired works.

The launch event will take place Thursday, Jan. 16 from 6-7:30 pm.


Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations
Jan. 11-April 12
This exhibition features video works, ephemera and production material created by Arnait Video Productions, the world’s leading women-centered Inuit filmmaking collective. Arnait represents the voices of Inuit women across generations, addressing traditional knowledge and contemporary life. This exhibition is part of Arnait’s March 2020 artist residency at Queen’s Vulnerable Media Lab, which includes intergenerational dialogues, workshops, and screenings. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Archive/Counter-Archive and the Vulnerable Media Lab.

The exhibition is curated by Nakasuk Alariaq, Linda Grussani and Tamara de Szegheo Lang.

The Pathos of Mandy: Walter Scott
Jan. 11-April 12
In Walter Scott’s new body of work, the central character is Mandy, an artist who has lost all legal ownership of his fictional character. A film follows Mandy through various vignettes of hubris and desperation as he attempts to piece together who he is, both personally and artistically, now that the central focus of his art practice is gone. The film and the accompanying installation are together a meditation on the slippery states between the fiction and reality of the “artist,” of aesthetic representation and of the self. 

Fresh from New York’s International Studio & Curatorial Program, Scott is this year’s Stonecroft Artist-in-Residence at Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

B-Side Agnes Etherington: Paul Litherland
Jan. 11-Aug. 9
Montreal-based photographer Paul Litherland offers unprecedented access to the little-seen “back sides” of paintings from the Agnes’s historical European collection in B-Side Agnes Etherington. Printed to scale, his photographs are mounted on commercial painting stretchers, which lend them the aura of original canvases while offering privileged views of labels, installation hardware and preservation devices. Enlightening viewers about the physical histories of Old Master paintings, this exhibition invites viewers to contemplate notions of the simulacrum and the trompe-l’oeil tradition.  

From Tudor to Hanover: British Portraits, 1590-1800
Jan. 11-Aug. 9
In recognition of a number of spectacular acquisitions in recent years, From Tudor to Hanover: British Portraits, 1590-1800 investigates the evolution of the painted and printed portrait in Britain. The desire to fashion the self, record achievement and cultivate fame has appealed to British citizens since the early modern era. Accordingly, this show explores the fundamental issues of identity – gender, class and status – by presenting portraits by Peter Lely, Godfrey Kneller and others in the context of evolving national and cultural boundaries.

Face to the Sky: From the Collections
Jan. 11-Aug. 9
Face of the Sky turns its gaze upwards, tracking a longstanding artistic fascination. In feature works from the Agnes’ contemporary and historical collections, skies swarm with figures, depicting spiritual epiphanies and embedded histories that seem to both belong to the land and carry transcendent potential. Taking inspiration from artist John Hartman’s drypoint landscapes, the exhibition combines Inuit printmaking, Italian Renaissance angels, Canadian mystical landscapes, modernist sculpture and contemporary mediations.

Playing Doctor: General Idea Multiples
Jan. 16-April 12
Affordable and ubiquitous, General Idea multiples were an activist means of disseminating activism. The Canadian collective, comprising AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, was an international artistic force. From the 1970s through early 1990s, they sent into the world art editions in various media that played upon consumerism, collaboration, media culture, queer counterculture and AIDS. Playing Doctor samples three decades of multiples-making from the Agnes collection, revealing the interconnectedness of General Idea’s ironic, often humorous, and self-referential practice.

Quest for Colour: Five Centureis of Innovation in Printmaking
Jan. 11-April 12
Printmaking is essentially a linear medium. How, then, to achieve the tonal richness of painting? Quest for Colour explores the inventive techniques through which printmakers from Albrecht Dürer to Andy Warhol have sought to answer this challenge. Curated by students in the Art History Program at Queen’s University, with Professor Stephanie Dickey, Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art.


To April 12: The Art of African Ivory

To Sept. 6 2021: Sandra Brewster: Blur

A members’ preview is being held ahead of the launch starting at 5 pm.

To learn more visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre website.

An overlooked era

Professor Robert Morrison’s The Regency Years is feted with prestigious book honours at home and abroad.

Queen’s University Professor Robert Morrison’s latest book The Regency Years was recently named to the RBC Taylor Prize Longlist and was picked by The Economist as a Book of the Year. The Gazette contacted Dr. Morrison to talk about the book and what the future holds.

Q: Tell us a bit about this book and what inspired you to write it.

A: This book is about a period in British history known as the Regency. It began in 1811 when the king, George III, went permanently insane, and his debauched son, George, Prince of Wales, became the sovereign de facto, or Prince Regent. It ended in 1820 when George III died, and the Prince Regent became George IV. There were many reasons why I wanted to write the book. But I think the biggest one was that I wanted to show why literature and the arts matter, and how what happened then still shapes what happens now. The book concerns novelists like Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, poets like Lord Byron and John Keats, military men like the Duke of Wellington, painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, and scientists like Michael Faraday and Sir Humphry Davy. Their achievements defined the Regency, but they also shape the world we live in now.

Q: The regency years are often called the overlooked era. Why do you think a book about this era is resonating so much today?

A: I’m not sure. I would like to think it is because I try in the book to take a fresh and much more wide-ranging approach to the Regency. On one level, I explore the elegance and poise that we typically associate with the period, in the architecture of John Nash, the portraits of Thomas Lawrence and Henry Raeburn, and the novels of Austen. But on another level, I try to bring into view people who have been left out of previous accounts of the period, including the Indigenous leader Tecumseh, the arctic explorer John Franklin, the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the comedian Dorothy Jordan, and the diarist Anne Lister, who wrote at length of her experiences of same-sex love.

Q: Your book has been named to the RBC Taylor Prize Longlist and picked by The Economist as a Book of the Year. Are you surprised by the accolades and media attention it has received?

A: Very surprised. I just sit in my library and work as hard as I can at reading and thinking and writing. But then it all goes out into the world and different readers react in different ways. Having it recognized by The Economist and the RBC Taylor jury is a big thrill.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research at Queen’s.

Q: Talk about some of your other research interests. How do they intersect with the Regency years?

A: Many of the people I have studied and taught for the past 20 years were active during the Regency, and writing the book was a way of bringing highly diverse interests together. For example, Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice, her most famous novel, in 1813. That same year, after nearly a decade of experimentation, Thomas De Quincey became addicted to opium. 1813 was also the year that Robert Owen published his New View of Society, the Duke of Wellington won the battle of Vitoria, Turner and Constable dined together at the Royal Academy, Lady Hester Stanhope became the first European woman to reach Palmyra in Syria, and so on. The book seeks to highlight events such as these, but also – and I think more interestingly – to try and bring them into collision.

Q: Regarding your writing, what can we expect next?

A: Right now I’m working on the Oxford Handbook of Romantic Prose, which brings together 52 different scholars, each of whom is contributing a chapter on a specific topic in early 19th-century British prose, ranging from Africa and Antiquarianism through Magazines and Metropolitanism to War and Welsh regionalism. I’m also editing the Collected Letters of Thomas De Quincey, and writing a book on the literature of addiction, beginning with De Quincey and moving up to Carlyn Zwarenstein, a Toronto writer who recently published a fascinating book called The New Confessions in which she engages very consciously with De Quincey’s many accounts of his opium addiction.

Agnes Etherington Art Centre earns pair of awards

Recent exhibition wins an innovation award and Director Jan Allen is honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

Visitors enjoy The hold: movements in the contemporary collection.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre was honoured with a pair of major awards at the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG), hosted in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 25.

The hold: movements in the contemporary collection received the award for Innovation in a Collections-Based Exhibition, while Jan Allen, Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The OAAG Awards celebrate the excellence and outstanding achievements of Ontario’s public art galleries. The awards are peer-reviewed, selected from over 250 nominations from 36 member galleries. 

Jan Allen, Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries.

“I’m tremendously honoured and grateful to receive the OAAG Lifetime Achievement Award,” Allen says. “I’ve enjoyed a fascinating career in this dynamic sector: the support and encouragement of colleagues has been crucial at every step. I congratulate Sunny Kerr for the well-deserved award he has received for his inventive work in The hold: movements in the contemporary collection. This project broke new ground in our approach to and conception of movement and access in the gallery, while staging artworks with Sunny’s signature sensitivity and altogether brilliant visual poetics.”


The hold: movements in the contemporary collection, curated by Sunny Kerr.

Guided by the gestures and imaginaries of works from the collection – such as amassing and splitting figures or tracing paths across grounds­­ – this exhibition addressed hindrance and movement, from the global to the intimate. Kingston artist and disability activist, Dr. Lisa Figge was consultant on the formation of the exhibition, using her paths in a mobility scooter to form the organizing principles of the exhibition’s layout. 


For nearly three decades, Jan Allen has served the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and broader artistic community, first as curator and then gallery director, with acuity and resolve.

As the gallery’s first dedicated contemporary art curator, she wholly defined a core curatorial area while also cultivating her own focus in electronic and new media art and politically- and socially-engaged practice, for which she has gained wide recognition. Deeply invested in the transformative potential of visual culture, Allen has organized more than 160 exhibitions of contemporary art, has produced and written for almost 50 exhibition catalogues, and contributed to contemporary arts journals such as Prefix Photo and C Magazine.

Her breakthrough exhibition publications have become definitive resources in the contemporary art field, including Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge: Working Culture (2008), for which she received an OAAG curatorial writing award and Annie Pootoogook: Kinngait Compositions (2011), the first exhibition publication devoted to the artist. Joyce Wieland: Twilit Record of Romantic Love (1995) continues to be a vital reference in feminist art history.

As director of the Agnes since 2014, Allen renewed artistic programs and built sustaining endowments, dramatically increasing participation. Allen will retire from the position on Jan. 1, 2020.

“Jan Allen has the rare skills of a great leader,” says Agnes Advisory Board Chair, Glen Bloom. “She has led by example and created an environment where her staff could flourish. And they have. Jan has a legacy at the Agnes that will endure.”

It’s the year of Rembrandt again, to the delight of museum audiences

THE CONVERSATION: The Dutch master has intrigued art-lovers for four centuries. His strength in depicting the human experience compels audiences even after 400 years.

Visitors to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre tour the Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges exhibit.

Among Dutch-speaking art lovers, 2019 is known as a Rembrandt-jaar (Rembrandt year), one marking the 350th anniversary of the death of the artist Rembrandt van Rijn. It is the cause for the beloved artist — who painted in the 1600s — to be commemorated with exhibitions, publications and even delicious treats.

A milestone Rembrandt year occurred 13 years ago, with the fourth centenary of his birth. The worldwide professional organization of curators of Dutch and Flemish art, CODART, recorded 83 exhibitions between 2005 and 2007 in honour of that Rembrandt year.

And, yet, with the 2006 Rembrandt-jaar still fresh in the memories of many, one may wonder, why are we celebrating Rembrandt again? What appeal does this European male artist have for us in 2019?

The Rembrandt years

Amy Golahny, Richmond Professor of Art History Emerita at Lycoming College, describes the 2006 exhibitions as focused on newly discovered documents and the contextualization of the master within the economic, diplomatic and historical role of art. One consequence of this year was the increase in monographic exhibitions of art by those in Rembrandt’s orbit, such as his master Pieter Lastman and his colleague and a competitor Jan Lievens.

A substantial 53 shows dedicated to the artist are listed on the CODART web site this year. These include Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges, organized and circulated by the Agnes Etherington Art Centre of Queen’s University, where I am a curator and resident researcher. The show focuses on the development of Rembrandt’s pictorial language among a network of colleagues in his native city of Leiden.

Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘Self-Portrait’, around 1629, oil on panel. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Courtesy of The Clowes Fund, C10063.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the foremost collection of Rembrandt’s art in the world, took a broader perspective in All the Rembrandts, which showcased its holdings of 20 paintings, 60 drawings and 300 of the finest impressions of the artist’s prints. From examinations of Rembrandt’s early years to a comprehensive view of his accomplishments across media, this year’s exhibitions delve deeply into the development of this singular artistic personality.

The earliest Rembrandt year seems to have been 1906, the 300th anniversary of his birth. That year spurred the placement of a commemorative plaque on the site of his birth home and the erection of a sculpted likeness in Leiden, as well as the purchase of the artist’s home on the Breestraat in Amsterdam to create a museum.

These early acts were as much monuments to the man as much as to his oeuvre, which reveal the lingering 19th-century romanticization of the artist as a Dutch national hero. Subsequent Rembrandt years — 1956 and 1969 — have concentrated on bringing together masterpieces by Rembrandt and his pupils so as to further delineate their individual oeuvres.

In anticipation of the 1969 Rembrandt year, the Rembrandt Research Project, which became the authoritative voice in determining the authenticity of Rembrandt paintings, was founded. Clearly, these commemorative years have had a huge impact upon our understanding the artist’s oeuvre and his biography.

The artist

Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘Head of an Old Man in a Cap c. 1630, oil on panel. John Glembin/Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003

There is a rich body of period documents that convey the painter’s character. Authors frame his personality as one rooted in a sense of conviction and autonomy and he seems to have experienced many of the trials and tribulations of modern life.

He was a late bloomer, and began his art education at the late age of fifteen or so; he believed so audaciously in his own skills that he proclaimed he could sell an unsatisfactory commission depicting a man’s beloved to any interested buyer.

After the death of the love of his life, he took up with the nursemaid and, subsequently, the housekeeper, with whom he had a child out of wedlock. He declared insolvency after unwise financial decisions.

There is something perpetually intriguing about his depiction of the human condition. His powerful colour, robust forms and imaginative interpretations humanize familiar narratives in striking ways. His early masterpiece, Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver of around 1629, for example, communicates the physical burden of treachery in horrifying terms: clothing rent in desperation, scalp bleeding after a violent fit, hands clasped in agony, body contorted in humiliation and despair.

Rembrandt, through his acute observation of the human condition, has incited new reflections upon our place in the world and our contributions to it.

Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges
Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre is currently hosting a touring exhibition celebrating the emergence of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of history’s most renowned artists. Drawing on the strengths of the museum’s Bader Collection, the exhibition – Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges – will appear in four Canadian cities and features works of art by Rembrandt, his colleagues, and his students, that reflect the creative environment and influences that shaped the earliest years of his career. Between August 2019 and May 2021, the exhibition will make extended appearances at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton in Hamilton. The catalogue and the exhibition tour are supported by grants from the Isabel and Alfred Bader Fund, a Bader Philanthropy; and the Government of Canada.

The shows

Why have museum exhibitions been so fundamental to this investigation of Rembrandt?

The curatorial act is a powerful strategy for imbuing the Old Masters with agency in the modern world. That act can unify contemporary themes with historical grounding, inviting the viewer to consider artworks as living objects bearing renewed meaning through the interpretative material presented in the gallery. The curatorial act can also invoke deeper understanding through comparison with other objects, illuminating new perspectives on familiar works.

Curators, as stewards of collections, have the responsibility to think creatively and broadly about the current pertinence of historical artworks. This can be seen in some of this year’s Rembrandt exhibitions.

Among the more incisive investigations are Rembrandt and Saskia: Love and Marriage in the Dutch Golden Age at Fries Museum in the Netherlands, which explores notions of status and social expectations within the framework of Rembrandt’s marriage, and Rembrandt@350: Zimbabwe remasters a Dutch icon, which features local artists’ responses to Rembrandt, plus six of the master’s etchings and a life-sized print of The Night Watch (which is now undergoing in-gallery analysis streamed live online.

The exhibitions on view this year demonstrate that new perspectives can deepen our access to and appreciation of the past. Each era curates the Rembrandt that it desires.

So, in this Rembrandt year of 2019, how are you celebrating the master?


Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator/Adjunct Assistant Professor, European Art, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Rembrandt van Rijn, ‘Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver’, around 1629, oil on panel. Private collection. Morgan Library & Museum/Private Collection


Agnes Etherington Art Centre to celebrate Fall Season Launch

Queen’s art gallery hosts public reception marking debut of four new exhibitions.

Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges gallery space
Between August 2019 and May 2021, Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges will appear at the Agnes, the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre is set to celebrate four exciting, new exhibitions at the museum’s 2019 Fall Season Launch reception on Thursday, Sept. 19, including Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges – a national touring exhibition that explores the famed artist’s works and influences.

Jamasie Padluk Pitseolak, Grub Shoe, 2011
Jamasie Padluk Pitseolak, Grub Shoe, 2011, serpentinite. (Photo: Bernard Clark)

Also among the debut exhibitions to be celebrated at the public reception are a deep-dive into a selection of portraits and self-portraits from the Agnes’ collection, an exploration of the ways in which we look, and a selection of recent abstract paintings by acclaimed Canadian painter Milly Ristvedt. In addition, artist Sandra Brewster’s dramatic, newly commissioned work in the atrium will greet visitors to the gallery.

“The season launch is an exciting, gratifying occasion for us to share the fruit of much planning and creative work with our wider community,” says Jan Allen, Director of Agnes Etherington Art Centre. “This fall’s offering is distinguished by Dr. Jacquelyn Coutré’s gorgeous exhibition focusing on Rembrandt’s emerging years as an artist. Leiden circa 1630 is a deeply original show that highlights The Bader Collection along with seldom seen works from private and public collections. We are thrilled also to introduce the Franks Gallery, a new exhibition space for regional and research-based exhibitions, named in honour of longtime Agnes supporters, Daphne Franks and the late C.E.S. (Ned) Franks.”

Adrian Blackwell, Kate McConnal’s Space, #1 from Evicted May 1, 2000 (9 Hanna Ave.), 2001
Adrian Blackwell, Kate McConnal’s Space, #1 from Evicted May 1, 2000 (9 Hanna Ave.), 2001, colour photograph.

Through a selection of the museum’s contemporary portraiture, Tracing Self and Other is an exhibition that considers some of the ways we know (or fail to know) one another and ourselves by examining a range of artists’ approaches to capturing intersections of perception, memory, incomprehension, passion, and compassion. The intimate exhibition seeks to probe beneath the surface of appearance, and raise questions about how we value one another: how we celebrate, how we hurt, and how we heal.

Split Between the I and the Gaze features diverse contemporary works exploring different acts of looking, calling into question the assumed roles of passive spectator or active participant. The exhibit implicates the viewer by placing them in the position of both the observer and the observed. Curated by students of Contemporary Art and Curatorial Practice with Professor Jen Kennedy in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation at Queen’s, the exhibition prompts viewers into different ways of seeing when confronted with direct gazes, fragmented bodies, personal spaces, and belongings.

Installation view of Between Chance and Order: Milly Ristvedt at Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Photo: Paul Litherland
Installation view of Between Chance and Order: Milly Ristvedt at Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo: Paul Litherland)

Between Chance and Order: Milly Ristvedt marks the inaugural exhibition in Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s new Franks Gallery. The selection includes recent abstract works by the painter, whose long career has included over 50 solo shows worldwide, and has led to many of her pieces entering private, corporate, and public collections – including Art Gallery of Ontario, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Harvard University, and Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Ristvedt is also a Queen’s alumni, having completed a Masters in Art History in 2011.

Running from 6 pm to 7:30 pm, the launch reception will also feature a musical performance by Melos Choir and Period Instruments at 6:15 pm, staged in connection with Leiden circa 1630: Rembrandt Emerges.

For more information on Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s 2019 Fall Season Launch, visit the website.


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