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Students honoured in first tri-campus arts festival

Children @PlaY! and Balance are featured works in U of T Festival of the Arts

Artworks by two U of T Scarborough students have been selected for exhibition in the 2008 U of T Festival of the Arts.

The juried pieces belong to Tharmila Rajasingam, a first year visual and performing arts student and Samira Alam, a third year life sciences student.

The Festival of the Arts is organized by the U of T ArtsZone, a new initiative which celebrates the vast array of artistic activity at the University of Toronto. The U of T ArtsZone works with academic departments, galleries, performance groups and student organizations to raise the profile of the University’s art scene.

Sue Mylde, the U of T ArtsZone communications officer said that students from all programs were invited to submit proposals for new work in November and December of 2007.

“The New Student Works Series gives those students whose proposals were selected by the Festival juries a chance to showcase their work during the inaugural U of T Festival of the Arts,” Mylde said. “20 projects, covering all artistic disciplines, were chosen and given a bursary to help with their production and presentation.

Rajasingam’s piece Balance is a three-dimensional sculptural drawing on paper which demonstrates the theme of yin and yang and explores their divergent symbolism.  

“Yin-Yang is a symbol which represents the ancient Chinese understanding of how things work,” Rajasingam said. “The outer circle represents "everything", while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two energies, called "yin" (black) and "yang" (white), which cause everything to happen. They are not completely black or white, just as things in life are not completely black or white and they cannot exist without each other. While "yin" would be dark, passive, downward, cold, contracting, and weak, "yang" would be bright, active, upward, hot, expanding and strong. The shape of the yin and yang sections of the symbol, actually gives you a sense of the continual movement of these two energies, yin to yang and yang to yin, causing everything to happen: just as things expand and contract, and temperature changes from hot to cold.”

From concept to creation, the sculpture took one month.

Alam’s inspiration for her piece Children @ PlaY! came from a day at the beach with her family.

“My cousins were taking apart a Styrofoam cup and started to write on it,” she said. “I thought it was really interesting and took a series of photographs. There are six photographs depicting a short story through the perspective of some enthusiastic little explorers as they build a space craft to communicate with the aliens beyond. The photographs outline the happenings so that you may fill in the gap with your imagination.”

Professor Tanya Mars, supervisor of studies for the studio program and senior lecturer in the visual and performing arts program (VPA) at U of T Scarborough, was a member of the Festival’s Visual & Media Arts jury. The jury included a representative from each campus, as well as one U of T staff, faculty and student member, to ensure balance and fairness.

“We did not look at any personal information such as what campus the student belonged to or their program,” Professor Mars said. “We just looked at the work and the work was selected on the basis of its merit. I think Tharmila’s piece is interesting. I think its fun. It reflects her personality. She is very dynamic and the piece is dynamic. It has a visceral quality that marks it as contemporary art and she fits right into that genre.”

Professor Mars was unable to review Alam’s work with her after the competition results but she said that not only students in the VPA program can make art and that it is important that the competition attracts creative students from diverse programs.

“We have our program and our mandate and we encourage students to produce work of a certain quality and conceptual base but I think it doesn’t matter what kind of art it is, Mars said. “The more art activity on all of the campuses, the more visible art is, the better it is for everybody.”

The artwork by Tharmila Rajasingam and Samira Alam can be viewed on the third floor of the Arts and Administration building.

The Festival of Arts is happening on all three U of T campuses until March 20th.

For more information the Festival of Arts please visit

Aurora Herrera is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College and currently working as an intern in the office of marketing and communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough