It’s no secret that Ryerson is a breeding ground for talent in the world of art, design and performance. Artists who have trained here continue to excel on an international scale. Arts & Life editor Gianluca Inglesi introduces you to some of Ryerson’s finest artists whose school days are coming to an end and careers are only just beginning
Intrigued by the beauty and detail of stage costumes, Eva Kuo hopes to use her knowledge of all things theatrical to become a costume designer for stage and film, maybe even Cirque du Soleil. Kuo has already made her mark at Ryerson by designing the costumes for the theatre school’s October performance of Unity (1918). “I got to design and create from scratch and it involved a lot of research and interesting inspiration, which I loved,” says Kuo. Her next step, after graduation, will be to travel to Prague and work at a Canadian exhibition that is being curated by a Ryerson professor. Once she returns she will look for work as a costume designer. For Kuo, designing for the stage will always be exciting. “If it’s a period piece, then I do a lot of research and try and really bring out the themes and image of that era. You try and present it in a new and refreshing way but you have to be true to the roots. Other times it’s about pushing boundaries and doing work that’s never been done before.”
Petra Popescu-Moody is focusing all her knowledge and creativity into writing a play that she hopes will take theatre to another level. Popescu-Moody’s ultimate goal is to find a way to use theatre as social aid and a way to “bridge cultures.” This actor turned producer/scriptwriter has decided to write a play for her final independent study and is determined to produce it herself after graduation. “I wanted to get to the point where I know how to produce. I am now confident to produce my own show… part of being an artist is knowing how you want to use your medium,” she says. As for the critics, Popescu-Moody says she’s not afraid of the reviews because the play is meant to be socially powerful, which she believes is the only thing that matters. “My main goal is to stay true to what I’m doing. Whether it be to myself if it’s my creation, or if I’m working with [others]… always staying true to what’s important. Theatre is ultimately teamwork, all to achieve someone’s vision.”
Even though she will be making a living off playing roles other than herself, Virgilia Griffith strives to be honest in her acting. She hopes to take the stage at the Stratford Festival and will always strive to make her characters as human as possible. Once she’s established herself in a diverse career of roles small and big, Griffith wants to share her experiences with the next generation. But more than just teaching she hopes to create a safe space for young people to be express themselves and use art as healing. One of the greatest lessons she will take away from Ryerson is that she can put more of herself in a character. “I was able to have fun and realized I didn’t always have to be that gut wrenching dramatist. There is still so much to learn. We are all learning that it takes time to build a career.”
Look for Jasmine Chen’s smile to be gracing theatre stages and screens big and small after she graduates. But she’s nothing like the Paris Hiltons of the world. She’s not in it for the money, the fame or to date Taylor Lautner. “What I really love is being challenged so I want to look for projects and jobs that will push me,” she says. And you probably won’t see her in roles like National Lampoon’s Spring Break; Chen wants to break out of her sheltered life and be able to bring about social change with her acting. She values artistry and works to become each character she plays — thinking, and even breathing as they would.
If you see a Broadway musical in the next few years you may see Austin Fagan leaping across the stage. Focused on pursuing his dance career, Fagan has a feel for contemporary dance but cannot turn away from musical theatre — so he is going to do both. As a dancer his main goal is to entertain. The way he sees it is that putting a message on stage is only half the job if it doesn’t touch the audience. “Messages are everywhere, but fulfilling entertainment isn’t.” After getting a taste of the professional world this year, Fagan has learned that he needs to dance as himself to be successful. “You can only move the way that you can move, so you have to use that fact to your advantage.”
Now that she’s gotten over the mid-university terror of graduating and facing the real world Michelle Wilson is ready to get out of here and do her own thing. “I’ve been a student for so long at this point,” she says. “So the idea of living for myself…I’m really excited about that.” She has one goal when she gets out there and it’s just to make a living out of doing what she loves. And Wilson will be fine. She has worked as a research assistant for a professor, coordinated the fundraising portfolio for the IMA Gallery and has built a support network to back her during her time at Ryerson. With all that under her belt, she shouldn’t have a problem out there in the real world.
Vanessa Paxton is one of a kind in her program. Her website doesn’t have the stark simplicity that seems to be all over photographer’s websites these days. Instead it has pink, flowery letters. Her images aren’t documentary style; they are fantasy scenes she has created, filled with vivid colors and whimsical objects. And most of all, Paxton has a plan for after she graduates. She plans on being a wedding photographer (but not one of those boring, traditional ones) and then with all her newfound riches she’ll open her own portraiture studio for people looking for an alternative to the typical family portraits. She may be different from the others in her program, but then again, she’s also the only one whose picture is being used in a whisky ad in Scotland.
For Arthur Mola, photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Patrick Demarchelier are not just idols, they are competition. Mola, a fourth-year photography student, is a budding entertainment and editorial photographer with a love for big cities and beautiful people. This year Mola was given the opportunity to do a shoot for Yorkville condominiums. “It’s a creative side of photography where you are able to conceptualize the idea of the product and the message trying to be delivered,” he said. Mola’s work can now be seen in newspapers and billboards around the city. After graduation Mola’s next move is to complete a personal photo essay of a fashion show in either New York, Paris or Milan. This project, he hopes, will demonstrate his artistic talent. “I want to make something different,” he said. “The world of photography is so saturated.” By mixing techniques and inventing his own, Mola’s work stands out. “When I use different types of film or different techniques people love it and work with it because you are doing something different. I never shoot front and centre if I have the choice cause that’s what everyone does,” he said. Mola hates the thought of a life of routine, “I don’t want to be another working photographer who hates their job. I want to do something I love and be successful at it. I never want to have a formula and I want to keep being inspired to do new things,” he said.
One of Ryerson’s most well known film students is Stephen Dunn. This budding filmmaker was awarded $15,000 by the Toronto International Film Festival this year and recently gave an exceptional TEDx talk at Ryerson about bringing his imagination to life. This third-year student has big plans for his future in film. “I’m using my fourth year thesis as a pitch for a feature film. I want to navigate where to go with my career and come out of the gates strong.” Dunn finds inspiration from Ryerson and its talented film students, “you can feel it in our classes, that everyone is going to do something phenomenal. When you are surrounded by so many great artists it drives you.” He hopes to one day make feature films for a living, but is well aware that he needs to work to get there. “I may have to break into television and directing other things like commercial work – but the feature films are my passion,” Dunn said. His ultimate goal is to create films that move people. Judging by his incredibly successful year, this won’t be the last we see of Stephen Dunn.
More than just pillows, tassels and oriental rugs Clancy Snook is mastering her craft of interior design. Over the past four years Snook has been training extensively and has a job waiting for her when she graduates. Once she’s established herself as a designer she hopes to manage her own corporation because she enjoys working with others. Last year, she worked with a group of classmates to establish the Haiti Shelter Initiative, producing shelters that are still used today. After working for the next three years she will be able to take the required exams to be considered an official interior designer. “You need to make sure your designs are functional but also have that extra something that give them an edge, or make them stand out. A design is never totally finished, but you have to get as close to it as possible.”
Forget New York City, Emily Harmsen is taking Ottawa. The city Harmsem describes as “up-and-coming” is where she hopes to start her own millinery company. Harmsen, a skilled seamstress and pattern maker, describes her new collection as, “artistic and textural,” a “combination of all [she knows].” She says the courses offered at Ryerson really helped her grow as a designer. “[Ryerson] really lets you explore different avenues. I took advanced illustration and it improved my work incredibly.” As difficult as it sometimes may be, Harmsen has learned the importance of criticism and has taught herself how to use it to better her designs. “You want to stay true to your vision. There will always be people who love your stuff, who hate it, and even those who could care less,” Harmsen says.
A communicator before an artist, Nic Thorne looks to convey a message through his work but strives to make that concept clear to his audience. Whether it be capturing the feel of a garment during a fashion shoot or using art direction to create his capstone book for Mass Exodus, he wants people to appreciate his work but also understand it. At Ryerson he learned the fundamentals of fashion communication but it is his individual strengths that will snag him a position at an advertising firm or magazine. Thorne hopes to see Europe and experiment with their more liberal aesthetic. But wherever he ends up he will be pushing himself, because after every success he is critical on how he can be even better.
With big dreams of conquering the world of fashion and design, Leigh Farrel is making her way to the Big Apple this fall in hopes of snagging a spot as an intern for a magazine or website. After taking web design courses at Ryerson and working on last year’s Mass Exodus, Farrel is certain that she is ready for real work and the real world. “[Working the Mass Exodus] you learn to work as a huge team to create something fluid and complete. It was a huge accomplishment,” she says. Farrel, who has already begun designing websites for clients, wants to excel in her field but promises not to sell out. “I always want to be proud of everything I do but I also want to please my clients. I want to be sure I’m still enjoying what I’m doing while helping and impressing others.”
He probably wouldn’t dare be this cheesy, but if Oliver Banyard had a motto it would be “go with the flow.” He has tried everything from graphic design to street art, as well as filmmaking to installation art. But mostly, he just does what he wants. “I’m really confident that it’s sorted out for me,” he says. “You just walk it out and it kind of comes together for you.” After getting rejected from Ryerson’s film program, Banyard decided to give new media a try and, lo and behold, it worked out. Four years later Banyard is ready to enter the working world with much the same mentality. He is willing to try anything from doing marketing for a company like Honda to designing the visuals for a Lady Gaga show, and he’s willing to do it anywhere from Toronto to Sweden.
Judging by what he’s working on now, you will most likely see Connor Deachman’s name on the bottom of your video game box one day. His thesis project is a video game that goes into your computer, steals names from your email and uses the names for characters in the video game. “Games today can often be very brain dead and have very little thought put into them,” he says. “So I want to get people thinking while they play.” Yeah…not exactly an idea that just anyone could think of, or for that matter, not something that just anyone could pull off. Video gamers all over the world should be thanking Connor Deachman right now.
There’s no rush for Kelly Hutcheson. Right now all she’s concerned about is building her manta ray. It’s a kinetic sculpture that shows two different ways you can view the world; one view is a world in which everything is beautiful and wonderful and the second is a mathematical, structural view of the world. With her manta ray and with all her art Hutcheson has one main goal, “I think I need a good combination of aesthetic and message in my work,” she says. Considering that building a kinetic sculpture would take the rest of us at least ten years to do, that should keep Hutcheson occupied for now; she’s got time for everything that comes after.