Letter from the artist

A celebration of Black beauty

Letter from the artist

To me, Black History Month means the celebration of Black heritage, culture, beauty, and the unity of everyone around the world with African ethnic descent. I tried to tie all these concepts into the cover piece by depicting a laughing Black woman decorated in gold, with the pan-African flag colours in the background. The pan-African flag colours — red, black, and green — represent the bloodshed of Africans who died in the fight for liberation, the colour of their skin, and the fertility of their land. I thought it was an important flag to include because of the ideology behind it: solidarity between all Indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent, which is a major theme of Black History Month.

Makena Mwenda designed the cover of The Varsity‘s Issue 18 in celebration of Black History Month.

UTSG: First Nations House Holiday Artisan & Book Sale

Celebrate the holidays and the creativity our community! This is a perfect opportunity to do some holiday (and personal, who are we kidding, right?!) shopping done!

Details about vendors will be released soon!

Haunted House + Costume Contest

For 2 days only, the Daniels Art Directive (DAD) presents a roof-raising haunted house with a scare level of 4/5 skulls! Great thrills and chills for all ages! Open to the public… but if you can’t handle the fear, just yell “Danny, Danny, Danny!”
Plus, you can get your photo taken for our Halloween costume contest! Categories TBA. Winners get candy!
Haunted House – Pay What You Can (PWYC), $5 to enter costume contest!
-Oct 31: 7:30 to 9 pm
-Nov 1: 4:30 to 8 pm
Room 230 at Daniels (1 Spadina Cres)

Daniels Art Directive (DAD) Design-a-Thon: Thoughts on Climate Change

Love puzzles? Passionate about climate change? Chaotic artist in need of friends and food? Join us at this FREE public design-a-thon Saturday afternoon, 2-5pm. You get to decorate 1+ blank puzzle piece, according to our theme of climate change! Light refreshments will be provided! At the end, we’ll assemble the puzzle and discuss!
BYOB – Bring Your Own Brushes!
Although art materials like paint, markers, and pencils will be provided, you are free to bring your own!
Sat Sept 28, 2-5 pm
Room 200 at 1 Spadina Cres (John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design)

Three lenses

U of T photographers and their Instagram presences

Three lenses

Students often document their lives at and around U of T. But it takes a particular kind of student to dedicate an entire Instagram feed to campus life ⁠— someone who can see the beauty, as well as the brutality, in our academic surroundings. 

Jenny Qian (@jennybeverlyqian) is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, Visual Art and Art History this summer. She plans to begin a Master of Management of Innovation in the fall, and has been running her Instagram account since 2013.

“I think my profile is a good reflection of who I am and how I have changed over the years and so this ability to track these changes is important to me,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity. She doesn’t remember exactly what urged her to create her account, but recalls she started “during a time when everyone around me started to get Instagram. I chose to continue using the platform because I am a visual person and prefer using photos to express myself rather than tweeting or writing a status update.” 

“As of right now,” she continued, “my profile is still very personal in content and so there really isn’t a specific goal other than posting about what I find to be beautiful. Because of this lack of focus, growth on my account is very slow. I am not sure if I will ever change though because I am happy posting about fashion, makeup, and food but also interior design, architecture, and my adventures abroad.” 

“I focus on capturing beautiful moments, spaces, and ideas within my daily life. In a sense, my feed is like a personal visual board of moments that inspire me aesthetically and so colour and lighting play a crucial part in my photographs,” she explained. “I have always been posting photographs of moments that I believe to be beautiful even if the subject can be mundane.”

Adrian Berg (@AdrianUofT), an Employer Engagement Coordinator at the Academic Advising & Career Centre at UTSC and alumni of the university, has similar reasons for posting photos, even though his feed is quite different.

“I tend to focus on architecture I find interesting – especially perspectives and angles that one might not normally notice,” he wrote in an email. “I’ve always dabbled in photography as a hobby (ever since acting as co-photo editor of the University College newspaper as a student many, many years ago) and this was a great creative outlet for my photography.” 

“I fell in love with UofT’s architecture as a student while spending so much time at University College and Hart House. There’s such an interesting contrast on campus of beautiful old historic buildings and striking new architecture.” He explained that as he worked on all three of U of T’s campuses, he wanted to set up his account to showcase their differing styles. Though, he warned, since he currently works at UTSC, the majority of his photos now stem from there. 

“I’m always seeing possible shots as I walk on campus or in the city,” he wrote. “To me, it’s just taking the time to see the amazing things that are around us every day, that we hardly notice while running through our busy days. My best advice would be to slow down, be in the present moment and look around (and up).” He highlighted a photo he took of a staircase in the Science Wing at UTSC as an example. “It would be easy to miss the beauty of the staircase when just walking around campus, but it’s a work of art from an architectural viewpoint.” 

Berg has been running his U of T architecture-focused Instagram account for a little more than two years. Like Qian, he has no specific routine for his account. “Sometimes I’ll go for weeks without posting anything (especially in winter) and other times I might post multiple times in a week.” It depends when inspiration — and the right light — strikes. 

It’s the same for Lauren Reid (@l_h_reid), who’s graduating this summer with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. “I just post when I have pictures that I particularly enjoy or moments I want to remember,” she explains. 

For her, it was a year abroad that prompted her to start posting on Instagram more actively. “I enjoy having an Instagram feed that captures important or fun things that are going on in my life or the lives of those around me so I can look back in a few years,” she wrote over email to The Varsity

I spent 12 months working in England and travelling to various countries where I fell in love with trying to capture some of my experiences to share them with people back home… I loved travelling and capturing some of my favorite moments all in one place was an easy way to document what I was doing and later make it easier for me to re-live some of those experiences and reflect back on some amazing times.”

But her activity on Instagram also turned out to be a great way for Reid to connect with new people. “I also enjoy being able to speak and interact with a broader network of students and STEM enthusiasts [and it] gave me a great opportunity to show some of the opportunities easily available for engineering students. Over [Professional Experience Year (PEY)], I had several people DM me to ask about my travels and experiences and for advice on how they could pursue a PEY in Europe, and some enquired about working after graduation.” 

“My Instagram does not have a specific, conscious focus other than to simply portray life of a University of Toronto student who loves to go on adventures, skydive, travel and run,” she continued. 

“While I receive DM’s from current UofT students, it is especially gratifying to get DM’s from high school students considering pursuing an engineering degree. Through my Instagram they see me as a normal, approachable student with various other interests outside of school and it seems to light a fire within them where they discover the world can be very exciting then they thought, and it is open to anyone.”

 “Using photographs and personal anecdotes I am able to show elementary and high school students when I spoke at their schools, or at science fairs, that engineering can be fun and adventurous, and much bigger than they ever thought. It is certainly bigger, and better, than I ever thought.” 

“I enjoy being a role model for young people,” Reid wrote, “especially as my background is quite different. I attended a Performing Arts high school and majored in trumpet and dance, so now graduating as an Aerospace Engineer from UofT seems a bit off brand. I love to hear students and parents express surprise.”

“If I can show students who follow me that it is possible and hopefully through my Instagram encourage them to pursue their dreams then I will be very happy. I think my Instagram also resonates with some young people because it clearly demonstrates that being an engineer isn’t just sitting in front of a desk all day. I love aerospace engineering, but I also love to travel and skydive and go on adventures with my friends, and hopefully they see that as well.”

“When I started Instagram was a way to both document my travels and experiences during my PEY and to share them easily and instantly with friends and family back in Canada. That hasn’t changed much. When I learned others were interested – either current undergrad students considering an international work term, or high school students considering engineering, international travels and otherwise just expanding their horizons – then I started to include more, and different, postings. Judging from the number of DMs I receive I think there is an appetite for this information.” 

I love scrolling through and seeing what my friends are up to or following and interacting with other people in the world you might not have ever got a chance to meet or connect with,” Reid wrote. “The platform is so much more than just posting for yourself, it allows connections in places you wouldn’t normally think to look.” 

For all three photographers, sharing images of their everyday lives and experiences is at the core of why they keep posting photos. While they enjoy connecting with others, the number of followers or likes seems less important to them. Most of all, they keep posting what is important to themselves for the simple reason that they enjoy it.

“While I appreciate the likes, I’d keep taking photos regardless,” Berg writes. For anyone interested in starting to post on Instagram more actively, his advice is: “Just do it. Don’t worry about likes, just do what you want to do and enjoy it.” 

Reid seems to be on the same page. “I try not to concern myself with the likes any of my posts receive. It really isn’t about that for me… I also think you shouldn’t take it too seriously. It is social media after all, which means you should simply enjoy using it with your friends.”

UTSG: Domus: Art Installation

The Daniels Art Directive’s outdoor art installation on sustainability, DOMUS, is currently outside the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design’s building (1 Spadina Cres), and will close Monday, August 26 at 3 pm.
We are also hosting three open mic events at DOMUS:
-Sat Aug 24, 7:30-9:30 pm
-Sun Aug 25, 5-8 pm
-Mon Aug 26, 12-2:30 pm
All acts are welcome (e.g. music, drama, improv, standup, writing, dance — no swearing, graphic content or nudity). Acoustic acts are preferred but you can bring your own battery-operated equipment. You can sign up online or in-person!

Enlightened minds, illuminated research

How the AGO’s art inspires researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Enlightened minds, illuminated research

What does scientific discourse have to do with artistic expression? For a research team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the answer is “everything.”

We once thought of our right and left brains as separate forces responsible for logical and creative thought, respectively. But scientific progress has shown us otherwise, as mental processes require that the whole brain works together in harmony to approach a task.

Just as the corpus callosum brings our hemispheres together as a band of nerve fibres, so too should science and art harmonize — so believes Dr. Mathieu Lupien, a Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

Lupien incorporates art into his professional sphere to generate creative discourse between his close-knit team of researchers. He offers a unique approach to team-building by inviting his team to take a stroll through the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Each team member takes the time to walk through and choose a piece of artwork that speaks to them. Lupien then has the team come together as a group to share their chosen piece and engage in dialogue about what inspired them.

“I get to see the world from their perspective and they get to see mine from theirs,” said Lupien in an interview with The Varsity. The process helps the researchers better understand how they see the world through different lenses.

Lupien expresses that this is an exercise in using something creative, like art, to share who we are as scientists. It gives the team a glimpse into each other’s worlds. For example, if a member really enjoys the intricate detail in a piece, we can understand that the fine details they reflect in their own work are something they value. This helps us interpret the work they do in a more meaningful way.

“Our imagination is the only way to explore the unknown,” said Lupien. “We are working in uncharted territory sometimes, so creating an environment that is conducive to open, creative thought is important for our work.”

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How can students integrate art and science into their own research methods?

Lupien describes that translating scientific works in an intelligible way is an art in itself. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be highly complex areas, full of jargon which can be intimidating for many students interested in the field. Using creative expression is one way to translate complexities in an imaginative way.

He demonstrates this idea in his description of his research on epigenetics: the study of how the activity of our genes can change, without changing our DNA sequences. He describes the genome as six billion letters of DNA that form words that are different in nature. When they are organized into sentences, each of them tells a unique story.

In order to form specific parts of our body, such as muscle and brain tissue, we organize our genome, represented here as letters, in different ways to create distinct sentences. The folding process is guided by epigenetic events, or post-it notes, which highlight the regions of our genome that need to be read.

Perhaps we can say that art relates in the same way. Each stroke of the brush or strike of the pen creates a unique image, and the artist goes over certain areas of the painting with these tools to highlight parts of the piece. Sometimes this disrupts the image, which can create chaos. Other times, this enhances the image with clarity.

Like epigenetics, one must follow these fine lines or broad strokes to understand how the larger image, or genome, has come to be. Lupien emphasizes that fostering creative thought can open a world of possibilities for all walks of life. “Bringing these values into your everyday practice as a researcher can serve to nourish your approach to work,” he said.

Experiencing art can also serve as time for our ideas to incubate, perhaps creating a period of unconscious processing for approaching problems in research. Taking from the famous 1929 works of Graham Wallas, The Art of Thought, incubation allows us to process problems in a manner whereby no direct effort is exerted.

We can optimize the way we process pre-existing knowledge by exposing ourselves to creative mediums such as art. This may lead to new approaches in scientific work. Ultimately, generating a scientific discourse with the expression of art can bring forth creative magic that inspires research. 

“In research, there are two things of value — there is knowledge and creativity,” said Lupien.

“You need to have balance. Never shy away from engaging in creative thought. You never know where it will take you.”

How and where to get your art published this summer

Hit up these galleries and publications for a complimentary feature

How and where to get your art published this summer

Entering the month of warm pavements and beams of sunlight may be exciting for those without paintbrushes or design pads, but for artists, the only vitamin we will get to soak up is Vitamin ECW, aka Endless Computer Work.

Summer is either the time to review last semester’s work and rebuild your portfolio or submit your art to various agencies for freelance work and internships. 

Between all the Gen Zers and millennials vying for positions, it is exhausting trying to find work and it can be incredibly competitive. We are often left wondering how we will ever gain ingredients to our design career pie. 

I realized quickly that sometimes the only option you have is to bake the pie from scratch, usually without a recipe.

There are plenty of other ways to get your work out in the open. Building your public portfolio is the first step in landing one of those sought positions, so getting your work published online should be your top priority. 

As many artists know, Instagram which is one of the biggest platforms right now to connect with like-minded individuals and receive great feedback. 

However, finding publications or pages willing to feature your work can take some digging. This is especially true since most ask for a publication fee — if you are in the position where spending any new coin is not an option it can be discouraging. 

Don’t sigh just yet, content is on your side! Since most platforms rely on a constant uploading schedule there are a few gems amidst the crowd that need artists to keep their flow going. 

Not to mention that because we are in the digital decade, you are open to the international market. Here are a few sites that are aesthetically pleasing for some great screen grabs and just what you need for exposure:


IGNANT is a gorgeous minimalist platform for design, architecture, photography, art, and more. 

Its published works deal mainly with “contemporary aesthetics from a different perspective.” To submit, all you need to do is send an email and attach images with a width of 1800 pixels or more, along with a description. 


Ballpit is a contemporary online art news magazine with over 52,000 followers on Instagram. It looks for consistent, high-quality work, and a positive attitude. If this sounds like you, fill out Ballpit’s small form for either a story feature or an Instagram post! 


Colossal puts the world of art culture at your fingertips. It is a contemporary art platform that accepts submissions across different disciplines: if you make anything from embroidery, animation, or painting, you are eligible to submit your work! Keep your descriptions brief in your email and attach a few relevant works that are at least 1,200 pixels wide. You can send a link to your portfolio; just make sure that it’s easy to get around to the right spot.

Communication Arts

Communication Arts is the perfect place for just about any artist, offering many opportunities to gain exposure. Submissions are open for its exhibit of new and innovative projects in graphic design, advertising, and outstanding websites. It also has online competitions, from which you can receive a personalized award if you win. How does that sound? There is a massive FAQ on the submissions page for each category if you are looking for extra information.

Empty Easel

Empty Easel is a one-stop-shop for tutorials and a platform to showcase unknown, emerging, and established artists every week. There is no definition of what it looks for in terms of art — the canvas is your oyster.


EatSleepDraw is a very popular Tumblr-based online art gallery that posts 100 per cent original content, submitted by contributors across the globe. It receives about 1,000 submissions every week, which means that approved artwork might take between 20 and 30 days to be posted, so pause on that refresh button for one second. EatSleepDraw also has been featured in The New York Times, so who knows who will see your art!

Women Who Draw

Calling all ladies! Women Who Draw is an open directory for professional women and gender nonconforming illustrators and artists. Their mission is to increase the visibility of female illustrators and those of minority groups. Make sure to submit a portrait of a woman that best describes your work!

Remember to always keep your eye out for artist calls such as the Art Map, and galleries that are looking for a variety of skills. Gallery 1313 has a space that features innovative work by emerging artists featured in the Window Box Gallery at 1313 Queen Street West. 

There is no cost involved in submitting your work. It’s a great opportunity to feature your art at the receptions taking place there, and expose it to new audiences. Bragging rights are included!

Of course, as with anything, getting your name out there takes time and patience, but the timer to take out your design pie will go off at any minute, with all the trials and errors of making it that much sweeter.