Read what some our alumni have to say about our program and its impact on their personal and professional lives.
Alyssa Fearon (MA/MBA 2014) currently holds the position of Curator at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, Manitoba, and recently began as Co-Lead of the Equity and Diversity working group at the Canadian Arts Coalition, a volunteer-run policy research group. In 2018, she curated the inaugural Scarborough zone of Nuit Blanche Toronto. She has also held positions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the New York-based Independent Curators International, and has taught at the University of Toronto Scarborough, York University, and Brandon University.
Alyssa graduated from York University with a joint MA in Art History and MBA from the Schulich School of Business, a combined degree that focusses intensely on management issues and practices in the arts and creative industries. Reflecting on how the MA/MBA has made a difference in her career, Alyssa states: “The York U MA/MBA dual degree program gave me the right mix of business and creative skills I needed to pursue a career in the cultural sector. It prepared me to work in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment, where I get to organize complex projects and collaborate with artists and arts workers across Canada.”
In 2018 Alyssa became a Salzburg Global Fellow, an organization that convenes outstanding talent to inspire connections between local innovation and global issues in order to foster networks for creative, just and sustainable change. Alyssa is interested in cultural policies and structures and how they produce and/or limit the conditions in which arts communities thrive. Her approach to curatorial work incorporates collaboration, social practice and Afro-diasporic knowledge systems to reimagine the role of art institutions in supporting critical artistic exploration. While at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, she has initiated programming with a focus on Black, Indigenous, People of Colour women/non-binary artists of the Prairies.
I chose the graduate Art History program at York University because of the disciplinary flexibility it offered. I wanted a program with an emphasis in contemporary art and a rigorous foundation in critical theory. It was important to me to have the opportunity to pursue my critical and disciplinary interests in tandem, and to work within a practicum that would emphasize application and professional integration as well. To those ends, I completed the graduate curatorial diploma in conjunction with the Master’s degree and found that the curatorial internship I completed, and the eventual employment it led to, proved to be an invaluable point of entry for me into the professional art world.
The program’s flexibility and curatorial emphasis allowed me to reasonably apply myself towards my professional goal of becoming a gallery Director. I was able to refine my practical skillset and develop a critical acumen with which to engage any task. I will always value my time at York. It was an incredibly formative and beneficial program for me, and I met many colleagues there that I would continue to remain connected to, both professionally and personally.
2011 - Present Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Los Angeles - Director
2010 - 2011 PI Fine Art, Toronto– Manager of Research and Development/ Department of Fine Art Publishing
2007 - 2009 Tatar Gallery, Toronto – Director/Curator
I chose York University for my graduate work because of it’s focus on contemporary art and its focus on gallery and museum practices. I was fortunate that the diploma in Curatorial Studies was implemented while I was completing my degree. Of particular importance to me was the Apprenticeship programs that allowed me to work at Toronto institutions so that I got a taste of the practical nature of gallery work, as well as build professional relationships.
I chose to apprentice at Mercer Union, A Centre for Contemporary Art, and was fortunate to meet many curators and artists in Toronto, and beyond. These relationships have continued until today. Courses and seminars were also applied to the curatorial field, working with the archives etc. which interested me greatly. I knew from the get go that I wanted to work in a museum or gallery and focus on contemporary work — academia was not for me — so York University was the only choice and has benefited me greatly.
When I was looking to enroll in graduate studies, York University's MA in Art History was an attractive program because the faculty shared my research interest in contemporary art and curatorial studies, with an interdisciplinary focus. The curatorial diploma's emphasis on both theory and practise, and the internship opportunity, provided me with great experiences that eventually led to an offer of employment. If prospective students are looking to hone their business skills in addition to completing rigorous academic work in Art History, the combined MA/MBA is a wonderful, cost-effective stream of studies. The combined degree absolutely prepares graduates for the real working world in the arts and cultural sector, and provides a competitive advantage in the job market post-graduation. I strongly recommend this program to students looking for a range of academic and practical experiences, and students looking to live and study in Toronto, and enjoy everything the city has to offer.
During my time at York University, I had the opportunity to engage with an array of ideas, methods, and histories. Coming from a fine arts studio program, the MA program provided me with a theoretical foundation that would not only inform and foster my doctoral research at McGill University, but also my curatorial practice at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. I will forever be grateful to my supervisor Dr. Carol Zemel for her insights on my research on mosque architecture in Canada. A graduate seminar with Dr. Anna Hudson on Canadian visual culture and curatorial studies was also especially helpful.
Since my time at York University, I have enjoyed working with various arts organizations and artists, not to mention alongside other former graduate students in the field. A year after graduation, my Masters research turned into an exhibition at the Niagara Artists Centre in St. Catharines and a journal article in Proteus: A Journal of Ideas. I believe that my education at York has contributed to this success.
2010–present Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery
2009 Membership and Resource Development Assistant, Ontario Association of Art Galleries
2005–2007 Programming Coordinator, South Asian Visual Arts Centre
2002 Facilitator, Pris
I was drawn to the Graduate Program in Art History at York University by its unique combination of theory-based study and practical application. While there, I was provided with vital introductions to the Toronto arts community: I met curators from galleries across the city; discovered art institutions, both large and small; and learned from artists of all sorts. What I studied at York and was able to practice while interning at the Art Gallery of Ontario prepared me for a future of curating and working directly with artists to produce new, public art projects. I have had the opportunity to work on boundary-pushing artworks at both Luminato and, now, for my own company. Currently, I work with property managers across Canada and the United States to commission artists and develop temporary public art programming. The success of this business is due, in large part, to the experience and knowledge I gained at York and is supported by a country-wide network of colleagues whose paths all trace back to the University.
Partner, Pearl VanderBerg Wagner, 2012 – present
Manager, Exhibitions and Institutional Information, Luminato, 2007 – 2013
Assistant Curator, Luminato Exhibitions, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2006 – 2007
Exhibitions Coordinator, Museum Strathroy-Caradoc, 2006
I chose the MA Art History and Diploma in Curatorial Studies so that I could have the best of two worlds - contemporary art theory but also a practical component in curatorial practice. The highlights of the program included rigorous reading and writing assignments, including historic and contemporary texts, which were good preparation for the field of curating. The Curatorial Studies diploma did prove practical and was highly regarded by potential employers after graduation. Another benefit of the program was access to wider larger University programs such as the University Teaching Practicuum which also led to employment after graduating.
Curator of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Hamilton, 2009 - present
(Ontario Juror, Sobey Art Award 2013)
Exhibition Coordinator, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2008 - 2009
Registrar, Stephen Bulger Gallery, 2007 - 2008
I chose the Art History program at York University in 2005 because of the excellent instruction and mentorship offered and the university's location in Toronto, Canada's largest city and centre for art. The program allowed me to focus my research on contemporary visual culture, architecture, and new media practices - interests that inform my work today. The classmates I met during my 2-year degree have become my colleagues and I have since had opportunities to work with a few in a professional context, which is always a pleasure.