Meet Alex and Austin, Our YCW Summer Students

Austin Henderson is a third year student at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, majoring in Fine Art. Alex Myrie is a second year student studying Arts Administration and Business at Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, QC. They are our Young Canada Works students and will be leading summer camp this season.

The RMG: Why were you interested in working in an art gallery this summer?

Austin: I worked as a Gallery Interpreter the RMG last summer, and absolutely loved the experience. Last summer, I was able to learn a lot about my skills as an art instructor to young children, so I’m looking forward to exercising that skill again, and watching their little hands create projects in the studio is one of the best parts of the job. I also enjoy the atmosphere of the Gallery. The staff is so warm, friendly, and they are happy to lend their professional guidance. Since I’m considering a career in curating, this is the perfect place to be!

Alex: While majoring in Art Administration: Visual Arts, I wondered what it would be like to work in an art space. I had placed my resumes for various art positions where I knew I could use my skills and experiences. In doing so I believed it would be a great idea to focus on gallery applications since the artworks are greatly focused on the Visual Arts. I believed that working in a gallery I would be able to learn about the arts, multi-task various matters and constantly be on the go to complete daily tasks. In addition, I enjoy verbally exchanging views and perspectives with others on understanding the arts.

The RMG: What will you be doing during your placement at the gallery?

Austin & Alex: During June, we plan the summer programming based on the advertised themes released earlier in the year.  As well as designing the camp schedule, we are responsible for compiling a materials list, ordering materials, and training our volunteers.  Throughout June, we may also assist Jennifer, the Education Coordinator, with any school tour groups. Closer to the end of June, we test out some of the activities (that’s really fun!) and prepare the materials.

This year, Summer Camp will be running from July 4 – August 26. We instruct the entire camp for eight weeks, with the assistance of our wonderful volunteers and co-op students.  We really appreciate everything they do for us because we would not be able to manage without them!  Seven weeks of camp are devoted to campers aged 5-10. The week of August 2-5 is split up for toddlers and parents (in the morning) and teens (in the afternoon). In the last couple days of August, we clean out the studio and run an inventory on studio materials to prepare for fall programming. It’s crazy how fast the time goes!

alex and austin

Summer stduents Austin Henderson and Alex Myrie

The RMG: What is one thing you want to share about the RMG?

Austin: I took some classes at the RMG throughout high school, and I knew it was a gallery that was close-by that exhibited some really interesting work, but what I didn’t know until starting this job was how extensive the Gallery’s collection is! It houses over 4,500 works in the permanent collection alone, and it has an exceptional art library open for public use.

I think it’s also important for the public to know how much the RMG cares about Oshawa and greater Durham Region. RMG Fridays and Yoga in the Gallery are just two examples of many events that the RMG hosts regularly to strengthen community engagement, but so much more is currently being planned by the Gallery’s passionate staff and volunteers!

Alex: The RMG is one of the greatest and open workplaces I have been part of. Those who facilitate and maintain the gallery are amazing. They constantly work hard and diligently to allow all individuals of various backgrounds and views to have great opportunities in the gallery. They are very passionate about their work and they are always there to help one another when needed. There is a positive environment as well as vibe in the gallery where you can feel free and safe with others.

The RMG: What is your favourite museum?

Austin: Last November, I went to New York City with my school’s program, and we visited dozens of galleries, big and small, all throughout the city. However, the museum that stuck out to me most was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its collection is one of the best in the world, and I could easily spend weeks through its corridors. I think it’s such a special place because it exhibits everything from Ancient Egyptian artifacts and medieval armour, to contemporary artists’ works, so there really is something for everyone. Pierre-Auguste Renoir is one of my all-time favourite artists, and I distinctly remember walking into a room filled with his works, and just being awestruck. I traveled to New York again earlier this May, and paid another visit to the Met to see the Costume Institute’s annual exhibit, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, which was nothing short of spectacular.

Alex: By far my favourite museum is the Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy. In my final year of high school I was granted a great opportunity to visit Italy and Greece for the March Break. While touring Rome, Italy we had visited the Vatican where I was truly mesmerized by the different mediums of Renaissance art. I remember while walking through the corridors there were so many art sculptures, sewn images on massive drapes and even paintings on the ceiling. I could not believe how much detail and time was invested into each section. However, what really made me fall in love with the Vatican was when I saw The School of Athens painting on the wall, which consist of the two well-known philosophers Aristotle and Plato. I had seen the painting in my study textbook and I greatly admired the painting since then. The funny thing was it never dawned on me that I would be seeing the exact painting right before my eyes and so when I saw it in person I felt like one of the luckiest persons in the world.

alex and austin

Summer stduents Austin Henderson and Alex Myrie

The RMG: What is your first memory of art?

Austin: My affinity for art-making probably stems from the movies I watched as a child, specifically anything by Walt Disney, and The Wizard of Oz, which is still my all-time favourite. I would draw the characters on my Magna Doodle so often that I went through several of them! I think those films inspired me to create images based strongly on my own imagination, and without them, I really don’t think I’d have the same passion for art that I do today.

Alex: My first memory of art is a bit faint as I was very young at the time. I remember my mom and I always making craft activities together whether it was painting pictures with my big paintbrush or creating animated designs with hole punched paper. I also remember when I got up Saturday mornings I would go downstairs by the big window where my paint was set-up and feel so excited to paint. My mom has always encouraged me to explore and be creative since I was young and it has led me to never look back as well as embrace my admiration for the arts.

The RMG: Aside from schoolwork, what do you do within your university during the year?

Austin: For the past two years, I’ve worked on the Creative Team for Vogue Charity Fashion Show, an annual student-run fashion show at Queen’s. This past year, my job as one of the Creative Directors required me to conduct photo shoots, conceptualize the show’s theme, attend weekly meetings, and create any graphics or promotional material for the show. This year, we raised $37,000 towards the Happy Soul Project, a Kingston-based charity focused on embracing differences. Aside from that, I volunteered as an Orientation Week Leader in the fall, which was a crazy fun experience! I also work with the Queen’s Smith School of Business as an Illustrator for the Queen’s Business Review, and as a student representative for the Fine Art Departmental Student Council.

Alex: As academics are important I also love to do activities outside of school. I enjoy volunteering in my community such as helping the Bishop’s Annual Fashion Show, sitting on various school committees, participating in the art club and tending to the duties as a Student Representative on the Student Council. I also enjoy doing yoga, reading, swimming with my friends and volleyball. I am hoping in the months to come I will be able to take up snowboarding again!