Linda Chen is one of the artists showcased in the Eastertide Art Exhibit about social issues. This is her painting called "Without Borders." Courtesy Linda Chen

Migrant crisis inspires Regis College art exhibition

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  • March 31, 2016

TORONTO - Truth in all forms of human expression reveals the sacred. Since the beginning, the Church has encouraged artists to express and complement the Gospel message through art.

Regis College at the University of Toronto is hosting an Eastertide Art Exhibit to showcase pieces from a group of seven Toronto artists collectively known as Artists of Practical Theology (APT).

The exhibit, opening April 2, is a collection of creative meditations on ongoing social issues of homelessness, migrant issues and refuge. Michael Stoeber, APT member and a professor at Regis College, said the theme was chosen as an initial reaction to the growing Syrian migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, but looking around Toronto, the group realized these issues are also in their own backyard.

"In Regis College we have this sculpture, Jesus the Homeless... and so we thought, 'Yes, of course, let's tie it in.' This is what the Syrians are going to be experiencing and it's not just the Syrians," said Stoeber.

Stoeber said the art exhibit has to be a constructive and positive response to these social issues. The paintings, sketches, sculptures and other art on display explore the sense of refuge.

"Like a church can be a place of refuge, where everyone can feel safe," he said. "Then we start to think about all the possible things of refuge in your own life... Then as you'll see it's quite a diversity of things that we're painting and installing."

Stoeber-boabab-treeBaobab (Tree of Life and Refuge), 2016 by Michael Stoeber.

APT member Angela Tamari works in many different mediums. One of her main pieces in the exhibit is an interactive work. Inspired by the novel The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Tamari plans to build a tent in the middle of the exhibit and invite guests to interact with each other.

"I've created a red tent and I'm going to be doing performance where I invite people into the tent to eat and drink," she said. "I'm hoping to express what I hope that we will all express as Canadians to people who come into our country. I hope that we learn to give openly and not try to protect ourselves from giving to others."

Tamari, who is a convert from Catholicism to Judaism, said that because the APT group come from different faiths and religions, the exhibit is also a expression of unity and solidarity. Even though each member comes from different traditions, their values for peace, unity and compassion are the same.

LindaChen-LeavingsAndRootsArtist Linda Chen, of Taiwanese descent, says her painting “Leavings and Roots” depicts holding onto your culture and tradition “like leaves which grow firmly from the trunk and roots.”

The exhibit will have art inspired by Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and First Nations art, as well as other faith influences.

"We are all so much like each other," said Tamari. "I think that what we're trying to do is reflect in our artwork... and how it's reflected in our spirituality within our artwork."

"Homelessness, Migrants and Refuge: an Eastertide Art Exhibit" will be opened at Regis College with artwork created by Stoeber, Tamari, Muhammad Irfan Aziz, Linda Chen, Alexey Dreva, Florica Laslau and Tai Kim. The exhibit will run April 2 to 29. Visit regiscollege.ca/art for more details.

Aziz-Solidarity"Solidarity" by Muhammad Irfan Aziz. This is a photo of the preliminary model of the sculpture.

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