Francophones gather at Rodman Hall for guided tour of expositions

French students and members of the Francophone community gathered in the Rodman Hall Arts Centre on Nov. 7 while Catherine Parayre, Director of French Studies at Brock, gave a guided tour of the two expositions in French.

Rodman Hall, located at 109 St. Paul Street, just minutes from St Catharines’ downtown core, was acquired by Brock in 2003 and now serves as an art gallery. There are currently two exhibitions on display in addition to the centre’s permanent collection.

Catherine Parayre speaks about the two exhibitions at Rodman Hall; Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Catherine Parayre speaks about the two exhibitions at Rodman Hall;
Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Parayre guided a group of about 75 people through the two exhibitions, sharing the intention and meaning behind the art pieces and inviting the viewers to actively engage with the exhibitions.

“It’s a game; today, visual art is a way of interacting with the viewers. It’s more than just being a passive observer, you have to make an effort and participate. Relax, take your time, and come up,” said Parayre.

The first exhibition, Cloud, by Donna Szöke, Assistant Professor in the department of Visual Arts, explores the relationship between a work of art and its interpretation. Her pieces convey a variety of messages and are often connected to the local Niagara community.

“Before an artwork [Szöke] reflects a lot. She is interested in the connections between visual art and the contact with the local community,” said Parayre.

One of Szöke’s pieces, “Green Mouse”, was inspired by an industrial zone in Niagara Falls, NY filled with radioactive mice used in experiments. The piece invites the viewer to reflect on the dangers of radioactivity and the unnatural effects it has.

The second exhibition was created by Bill Burns, an internationally known artist from Saskatchewan. His exhibition is titled Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us, and is a prayer to the most famous and powerful people in the art world, satirically critiquing the system that placed them in that position.

“He knows the art world,” said Parayre. “The problem is that there are many good artists but only a few become famous. It’s a very elitist world and you need connections to become known.”
Burns’ exhibition includes the names of art celebrities written on cheap pieces of firewood and miniature figurines of the most famous. His works reflect on the injustice of the art world that is based on an artist’s connections rather than the quality of their work.

“I think [the exhibitions] work well together, they speak to each other. There’s a lot of humour in both,” said Danny Custodio, Administrative Assistant of Rodman Hall.

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“I find it very interesting,” said Silvia Miles, a former student of Parayre. “I find what she has to say about the art very helpful.”

Parayre offers a guided tour in French twice a year. The next one will be in March featuring exhibitions by Brock VISA professor Shawn Serfas and Amy Friend coming to Rodman Hall in January.

“There’s a large francophone presence [in Niagara] and this is a totally normal way of giving back [to the Francophone community],” said Parayre.

Both exhibitions will be on display until early January. The centre is open Tuesday to Sunday and admission is by donation.

For more information about the Rodman Hall Arts Centre, visit brocku.ca/rodman-hall

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