art matters festival 2020


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who we are

north america's largest student run arts festival

Art Matters is a non-profit festival that has existed since 2000 in Montreal. By now, it’s been called the largest student run art festival in North America, and its home is Concordia University.

Art Matters takes place in March. About ten exhibitions curated by students are spread out over three weeks, punctuated by our signature parties and events.

Art Matters is created by and for undergraduate Concordia University students.

Art Matters works as a non-profit festival to provide honorarium based-job opportunities and small compensations for our artists and creative teams.

Art Matters works to get people working together. We encourage students from different artistic practices to exchange ideas.

Art Matters likes new ideas. We promote diverse artistic approaches, processes, and risk-taking.

Art Matters helps begin a dialogue between student artists and working professionals by providing a unique venue for each student exhibition. We also collaborate with professional festivals and organizations to create mentorships and future exhibition opportunities.

Art Matters strives to be inclusive, accessible and diverse.

Art Matters makes it known that Art Matters!


Art Matters is a fee-levy organization. In order to opt out, please arrange a drop-in at our office through 

Art Matters is funded by fee-levies, student-written grants, and fundraising. For more information about Art Matters’ budget or funds, please contact:

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what we stand for

anti-oppression statement

The Art Matters festival takes place on unceded Indigenous lands. The Kanien’keha:ka Nation is recognized as the custodians of these lands and waters. Tiohtia:ke/Montreal is historically known as a gathering place for many First Nations.
Today, it is home to a diverse population of Indigenous and other peoples. We respect the continued connections with the past, present and future in our ongoing relationships with Indigenous and other peoples within the Montreal community.

Fine arts and academia have an ongoing history of oppression. The Art Matters festival exists at the intersection of their colonial legacies, and is woven into the fabric of structural and systemic violence(s) that uphold such institutions. This structural and systemic violence includes, and most often represents the prioritization of certain bodies and their interests based on race, ability, sex, gender, sexuality, nationality/status, class, education, culture, religion and more. For instance, in the history of fine arts, certain movements have mobilized racist aesthetics to depict and interpret the experiences of colonized peoples while using such depictions to justify colonial rule (and, subsequently, neo-colonialism/global capitalism).

Everyone is capable of (re)producing systemic violence to ascend hierarchical structures. The following questions encourage “us” to consider positionality, intention and impact in art practice(s) to move toward iterations of the Art Matters festival that acknowledge the historical legacies of fine arts and academia while manifesting a present and future that prioritize the voices, experiences, knowledge and safety of those who have been excluded and/or oppressed by these structures.

The following questionnaire aims to foster reflexivity within and beyond the Art Matters community by giving examples of how oppression may manifest in individual and collective art practices:

    1.     Are you able to perceive the difference between intention and impact
      • We hope so.
    2.   Are you willing and able to prioritize the voices of those experiencing the impact of your work?
      •     You better.
    3.   Does your work allude to forms of violence that are systemically perpetrated against certain bodies?
      •     If yes, that is part of systemic violence.
    4.   If so, does it contribute to their reproduction and do encounters with your work evoke/provoke trauma for the bodies you seek to represent?
      •     If yes, see 3 + this makes your work and the space of exhibition inaccessible.
    5.     Does your work sensationalize traumatic events for the sake of shock value?
      •     If yes, see 3 + 4 + you are taking advantage of marginalized people’s experiences and trivializing them.
    6.   Do you experience systemic privileges?
      •     Surprise! It’s always yes.
      •   Follow up question: which ones?
    7. Are you telling someone else’s past, present, or future story in your own voice while your own embodied experience and cultural references differ from this person’s? Does this act contribute to the commodification, marginalization, and fetishization of a given culture, its symbols, aesthetics, etc.?
      •     If yes, that’s appropriation
    8. Are you transposing racialized narratives onto white bodies, or transposing white narratives onto racialized bodies?
      •     If yes, that’s whitewashing.
    9.   Does your work include stereotypical imagery that is uncritical of its origins?
      •     If yes, see 3.
    10. Do you use words like “intersectional” and/or “anti-oppressive” to justify problematic themes in your work?
      •     If yes, that’s deflection.

Bonus question: Whose shoulders are you standing on? Please consider the implications of your answer.


Florence Cing-Ghai Yee

Nènè myriam konaté

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