Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz sits on the ground and holds paint brushes in her hands.

Creating community connections through art

September 1, 2021
Author: Rachel Stern

Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz’s work part of interactive RockVIU art exhibit

Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz hopes her art makes people feel confident, accepted and valued.

The VIU BA student, completing a double major in Visual Arts and Global Studies, is one of three artists displaying their work during RockVIU's interactive art exhibit. RockVIU is the University's series of new student orientation events, taking place August 23 to September 3, 2021. The art exhibit runs September 3 from 11 am to 5:30 pm at VIU's Malaspina Theatre, Building 310. It features visual art displays and dance performances that reflect on what it means to "Matter Here" at VIU.

"My hope is that those who experience the entire exhibition can truly feel, in their own way, that they do matter at VIU, and that they can reflect on what is important to them in feeling that they matter," says Kashmir.

Kashmir is born and raised in Ontario. After visiting her aunt and uncle on Vancouver Island in 2016, Kashmir knew she wanted to live in BC one day. Two years later, she booked a tour of VIU's Nanaimo campus, after which she decided to transfer here from the University of Guelph.

"I toured VIU's campus and fell in love with the mountain views, on top of the prospect of attending a smaller-sized university. The Visual Arts Department Chair and all of the employees I was in contact with made the transfer so smooth and easy, and were incredibly welcoming from the very beginning," she says. "I knew it was the place for me – it was the location, kind faculty and the homey feel."

We caught up with Kashmir to learn about her art, inspiration and future aspirations.

Tell me about your medium, and what drew you to it?

The materials I used to create my art in this exhibition range from canvas and oil paints, to driftwood and screws, to cardboard and polaroid pictures. Working with canvas and oil-based paints is usually my go-to medium other than photography. I like that the canvas is restricting, in the sense that you can only paint until the edges of the canvas and with certain materials (if you are choosing to work in a more traditional manner). But more than anything, I enjoy the freedom that working on a canvas offers. A blank canvas means a fresh start, an opportunity that is your own to define, create and express in your own unique way.

The other materials used came about naturally as the theme of the exhibition "Matter Here" challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone when drafting my art concepts. The theme encouraged me to really think about how different art materials can be used to help evoke different responses, outcomes and impacts with the viewer.

What are you hoping to evoke from your audience/people who see this?

The journey through university may be different for everyone, but the root of what we experience is the same. The art exhibition seeks to recognize, represent and allow people to experience various components integral to the concept that you truly matter. Whether that's feeling accepted, respected or safe to be yourself. It's also about feeling included, valued and being given a space for your identity to be expressed and voice to be heard. It's about inclusion, representation and diversity.

I hope that the audience will understand that this experience was solely designed for them, with their hearts, minds and spirits kept at the forefront every step of the way. I hope they realize that they truly matter to VIU, that they are just as important and integral to the community as anyone who walks beside them. I hope it inspires them to feel confident in themselves, connected to the community and valued as an individual as they embark on their journey ahead.

What's the story behind your creations and how do you feel you've expressed this?

You Matter Here is an interactive artwork that encourages students to engage with the community through self-representation. My intention behind the work is to both tell viewers that they matter through the words "You Matter Here", before then showing them they matter by asking them to interact with the artwork by adding a photo that means something to them on the wall. This wall and collection of photos and text becomes a place to celebrate and represent that which matters to us individually and as a community at VIU.

The work What We Carry is about student identity, represented through abstract realism and nature symbolism. It acknowledges both the external factors that define us – physical things such as books, bags, etc. – as well as the more internal factors like conflicting thoughts, emotions and experiences that we carry hidden within.

Something that was important for me to do with this work was to represent the range of emotions and feelings that students experience, done through nature symbolism. I hope to remind students that they are not alone in what they feel and experience. This work seeks to both represent and honour student identity, for the triumphs and the struggles, and to remind students that they are worthy and valued for all that they are. I hope students will reflect on what they choose to carry with them as they move through their journey through life and their university experience.

What are your future aspirations/ career goals with your art?

I am planning on pursuing a Master of Fine Arts after graduation. And I am considering pursuing teaching arts at a college/university level, but as of right now, my future with art is still a little unknown. What I do know is that no matter what path I end up taking, art will continue to be a significant part of my life.

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