Alumni, staff and faculty converged at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Toronto office for a private preview of two Nuit Blanche installations on Sept. 27.
From Toronto, with Love and The Three Chapters of Solitude were two of the more than 300 installations displayed during Toronto’s annual all-night art festival. At the preview event, alumni, staff and faculty explored the theme of belonging and the meaning of a suitcase as interpreted by more than two dozen artists.
The group Not Just Tourists Toronto (NJTT) curated From Toronto, with Love, asking more than 22 artists to transform suitcases to reflect ideas of travel, destinations and health care. NJTT, led by Laurier alumnus Avi D’Souza (BBA '07), is an organization that collects unused medical supplies and sends them around the world in suitcases carried by volunteers.
"I was struck by how meaningful the exhibits were and how people poured so much of themselves into the suitcases in the From Toronto, with Love installation," said Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy. "The participation of Laurier’s Toronto office in Nuit Blanche is a perfect example of how our university embeds itself in the communities it serves. We are thrilled to participate in the city's arts and cultural landscape in this way."
Two of the suitcases featured artwork by members of the Laurier community. Elizabeth Best, an Indigenous artist and recent Laurier graduate, completed a compelling piece titled My Fear of Going Missing. The piece pays tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and reflects on Best's own fears.
Jasmine Lai, a Laurier student working as part of a co-op placement in the university’s recruitment and admissions department, helped create My Home Away from Home, a piece dedicated to the new experiences, environment, friendships, education and growth that shape an individual during their years at Laurier.
Two of the suitcases on display during a Nuit Blanche preview event at Laurier's Toronto office.
The second exhibit, The Three Chapters of Solitude, featured a series of short videos reflecting on personal interpretations of distance and intimacy produced by filmmaker Henry Heng Lu.
Laurier alumna and NJTT volunteer Danielle Stewart (BBA '12) said she enjoyed how each artist interpreted the suitcases and how the installation allowed people to think differently about travel.
"Both Avi D'Souza and I have strong ties to Laurier and we’re really glad that Laurier agreed to host us," Stewart said. "I think it shows how dedicated Laurier is to helping the community and fostering arts."
Carolyn Hawthorn, university relations manager at Laurier’s Toronto office, said she was pleased with the Nuit Blanche preview event.
"The event was a rare opportunity to connect directly with the artists behind both From Toronto, with Love and The Three Chapters of Solitude," Hawthorn said. "The goal of the intimate affair was to continue the discussion about some of the important themes, ideas and issues these suitcases represented."
Eliana Suarez and Eleanor Ty, Laurier professors who attended the event, said they were impressed by the diversity and creativity of the artists.
"I was interested because many of the artists seemed to work on the theme of displacement and dislocation," Ty said. "We often think of tourists as rather frivolous and enjoying themselves, but this is really about extra baggage and how you can make use of the extra space you have to do a good deed."
Suarez also noted a common theme of displacement and identity.
"It is incredible that the artists can represent how fluid our identities are and how fluid our lives are," Suarez said. "The idea is hard to capture in text, but I believe in art, it's way more powerful."
During the Nuit Blanche public event on Sept. 29, more than 5,000 guests explored the two exhibits at Laurier’s Toronto office.