Trust Your Wings

Four years ago, as you entered the Fine Arts program at Mount Allison University, none of you could have imagined that you would find yourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, navigating your way through uncertain times. Much has changed in our world and in our lives. And yet, here we are, 1318 days later.

 

I must admit, the title of this graduation exhibition, 1318, in some perverse way, brings back a sense of fear in me. Perhaps it has to do with my fear of numbers, going back to my struggles in school in the subject of math. Maybe it has to do with my grade twelve math teacher deciding we needed to learn some of the basics of first year university calculus in the last six weeks of my graduation year. That would, in an untimely fashion, sink my already overflowing boat in math. It wouldn’t obliterate my chance though at being accepted into Fine Arts at Mount Allison. My infamous acceptance letter would constantly remind me that “Even though” I had failed grade twelve math, they had accepted me into the program. That is over 57,992 days of being a part of our fine arts community, and all these numbers do make my brain hurt. That is a long time.

 

When I consider time, I always ponder how we travel through the years. One of my favourite singer/songwriters, Lennie Gallant, in his latest album Time Travel, eloquently speaks of time in his title track with the same name.

 

Pulled a ticket from the wheel upon the wall

And I waited for my number to be called,

Read a science magazine left on a chair

There’s a ripple in the universe out there

We don’t know much and we know less every day

About time and how it moves and slips away

About how we are connected, yet apart

About distance and the journey of a heart

 

For each of you as graduates, these past four years have been about time and change and growth. I recently walked through the fourth-year studio peering into cubicles and speaking to those of you who were there working at that time. I was brought back in my memory to your first days at Mount Allison, those days of getting to know you in the studio. It is remarkable to see how much you have changed while retaining your personalities. Your work has grown exponentially. (I fear I am using yet another math term) Each of you has gravitated to new mediums with new voices. I marvel at how you deal with identity, space, colour, sound, and light. Your work is graphic and strong. You have been courageous as you faced the scars of the passage of time, confronting each one head on. I like to think each of you is creating “a ripple in the universe out there”. A ripple starts small yet has enormous effect on the surface as it moves out from the centre.

 

As artists you have the potential to make change in what are uncertain times in the world. Each of you has persevered to make it to this next step in your journey. This is a journey that we celebrate with you. There is much left yet to learn. There will be new experiences, along with new struggles, restrictions, and freedoms, some resulting in defeat, with others ending in triumph. I have found the best work comes out of the hard times.

 

Going back to Lennie Gallant’s Time Travel, he beautifully reminds us of the strength we can find in our lives.

 

We are fragile, yet stronger than we know

So afraid to trust our wings and just let go

Always waiting for someone to call our name

And if they don’t we look for someone else to blame

 

Each of you has so much to give, especially as you travel through these times. As artists you have the opportunity to give back, to be agents of hope in this world. Your 1318 days of making art at Mount Allison may be over, but that number will continue to grow as you pursue your passion. Look to be “a ripple in the universe out there.”

 

Trust your own wings.

Dan Steeves