A palette of possibilities: studying fine arts at Bishop’s University 

Students sitting on lawn

Embracing creativity and unleashing potential 

What I found most challenging as an aspiring artist was to take the step to register for an undergraduate program in Fine Arts. It may sound silly, but it felt like a bold move, a self-affirming statement that was difficult to make for a blooming art enthusiast.  

There are many underlying pressures put on young artists; It feels like we are expected to produce great works of art at every turn, build towards a professional practice, and make meaningful contacts within the artistic community. Sometimes, having to justify or explain this “extravagant” life path exhausted me. 

What helped me defy those expectations and embrace my creativity was to look up the numerous possible careers related to Fine Arts. It made me realize how much our society needs its creative members. I learned soon enough that yes, I could aim for a professional studio practice and focus on building my artistic abilities through classes offered at university, but I might also be interested in Arts Administration, curatorship, or teaching in the art field. What a relief to know that I am not doomed by my passion; that it is not a curse to be creative! As it turns out, there is a wider range of possibilities than I thought out there and, for me, it began to unfold here, at Bishop’s.  

So, what is it about Bishop’s? 

Bishop’s University’s Fine Arts program stood out to me right away because of its variety of studio courses. It filled me with excitement to look up the list of offered classes and to see both familiar and unexpected mediums. From the beginning, I had the opportunity to build knowledge and skills related to “classic” approaches, such as drawing, clay and plaster sculpting and painting. I was also encouraged to explore textile and fibre arts, artist bookmaking, moulding, and land art, to name just a few.

hands holding a sculpture of a face in an art studio

As one generally starts studio classes at level I, then registers for level II and III courses, they may build their skills gradually and witness tremendous progress through semesters. Personally, having completed a Certificate in Visual Arts beforehand, I was able to get some classes credited and continued to evolve on my one-of-a-kind path. (I encourage anyone, if ever they have a non -traditional background or are just wondering if the program suits their interests, to get in contact with the current Chair of Department, which can be found easily on the University’s website.)  

Secret ingredient

The secret ingredient that immediately made the Molson Art Building so special to me was its welcoming feel and warmth. The Fine Arts professors are accessible, kind-hearted, highly resourceful and most of them love to chat over a cup of tea in the Sculpture Studio in-between classes whenever the opportunity arises. There is an aura of openness and creativity to the space that, I found, made it easy to build genuine friendships from my first semester.  I found it wonderful to find a community of professors, classmates, and friends with whom I could share my struggles but also the joys of being a creative person in our modern society. Another plus about the Molson building is that its studio spaces are open on a wide schedule both during weekdays and weekends, making it possible for me to stay with my pieces in progress until my sparkling eyes get sleepy. 

sitting area with nice trees outside the windows

Opportunities galore

Another cool thing to note is that there are plenty of opportunities linked to the department to get students involved and get them to know their new community! Every semester, we have the chance to display our works of art during the seasonal Open Houses of the Molson Building and celebrate our accomplishments with friends and professors. It is possible to become a Studio Monitor and take on the surveillance of the building for a few hours per week, or an Art Hive Volunteer that receives and guides art enthusiasts at the Art Lab under Bishop’s Foreman Art Gallery. One could even submit a project for the BU Arts Festival, participate in an independent study or get an internship at the Foreman Gallery! 

sketches of an artist

Four things I wish I could tell my freshman self 

-Having English as your second language should not scare you away. Everybody here is more than patient as you search for your words; plus, there is a huge bilingual community. (And yes, you will absolutely pass that ENG100 class, do not even doubt it.) 

-Do not hesitate to go try out the gym at the sports centre, you will realize eventually that there are hours reserved for women and gender non-conforming folks and you will feel very safe there. 

-Don’t be shy about asking questions to your professors and sharing any stress, they most likely have been in your place before and will be willing to guide you to the best of their knowledge. 

-Go visit the Art Lab and the Foreman Gallery right away! The quality of the exhibitions is amazing, and the Art Lab is basically a room full of free art supplies where you may do your best or your worst works, without any fear of judgement. The weekly Art Hives are absolutely underrated, bring your friends there! 

Head to Bishop’s website to read more about the Fine Arts Department!

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