It began as a simple assignment one year ago.
All Stephanie Patsula had to do was sit at an information booth during a United Way fair at Thompson Rivers University and answer any queries about TRU’s visual arts program.
Patsula was co-president of the visual arts’ student association at the time and was happy to fulfill the call of duty.
“I jumped on the opportunity,” said the 25 year old, fourth-year art student.
Not only did she jump on it, Patsula developed a clever idea to engage the trade show’s attendees. She attached a wooden suggestion box to the wall and placed a desk next to it with paper and pencils and invited passersby to write their experiences of giving and receiving and place them in the box.
“It wasn’t just limited to touchy feely good things,” said Patsula.
“The way that giving and receiving could make a person feel isn’t always what we would expect. So, it made for some interesting narratives.”
Initially, she didn’t have any plans to pursue the project beyond the trade show, but there was something about it Patsula couldn’t leave behind.
She proposed an idea to her program advisor.
“I said, ‘I think this could be a really great art show,’ ” said Patsula as she recalled the conversation this week.
“And he said, ‘Well, that’s ambitious. What do you want to do?”
She wanted to collect more stories. Not only that, she wanted to display them in the university’s art gallery along with some complementary art.
“. . . so people can see what a strong community Kamloops is.”
Months of planning and groundwork went into the show, The Art of Giving and Receiving: Narrative and Visual Expressions, which opens on Monday in TRU’s Old Main Building.
Since putting out a call for submissions, Patsula has collected dozens of stories that were handwritten by the contributors on postcards specially created for project.
It’s been a lot of hard work, but an enriching experience.
“I’ve just been learning a lot about people and what giving and receiving can mean and the obligations that can come with that,” said Patsula, adding, “they’re all amazing stories because they’re something that someone has decided to offer up of themselves.”
The stories will be displayed along with seven artworks from Kamloops artists and a short documentary film, as yet unnamed, which tells the story about the United Steelworkers Local 7619’s project to build public showers at ASK Wellness Centre — an idea example of giving and receiving.
And while Monday’s opening marks the public unveiling of Patsula’s project, it hardly marks the end of it. She has more than enough stories for the exhibit, but Patsula wants more. Many more.
“I want hundreds,” she said.
“I want people to constantly submit their narratives.”
To that end, people are invited to fill out project cards on Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at TRU’s art gallery or at Kamloops Art Gallery for inclusion in the show and on a Tumblr page. People can also fill out cards during the show.
Is there an end in sight?
There is for the physical exhibit; it closes on Thursday, Oct. 10, with a public reception at 6 p.m.
As for an end to the project, that’s difficult to say at this point, but Patsula envisions keeping the it going online indefinitely and eventually handing the reigns to another gatekeeper, maybe another student. It seems to not have a definable ending, but a series of evolutions and transformations.
“It’s kind of a never-ending project,” said Patsula.