CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

February 8, 2001 Technicians make art happen



Above, Fibres technicians Anna Biro (one of several part-timers) and Elaine Denis (centre) help students Sarah Hanneman (left) and Audrey Robinson (right). Besides Denis, the other full-time permanent Studio Arts technicians are Johanne Biffi (Photography), David Duchow (Photography), James Ball (Painting and Drawing), François Cloutier (Metal Shop), Mark Prent (Mould Making Shop), Kit Griffin (Ceramics), Lyne Bastien (Print Media) and Stephanie Russ (Print Media).

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj.

by Maria Vincelli

There’s consensus among the technicians in Studio Arts that helping students figure out how to bring an idea to fruition makes all their hard work worthwhile.

Kit Griffin has been a ceramics technician for 21 years and still loves it. “I like working with the students — the variety, all the different projects, different problems to solve,” she said. Metal shop technician François Cloutier agrees that he gets satisfaction from being able to find solutions to a student’s technical problem.

Professor Wolfgang Krol has taught sculpture at Concordia for more than 30 years and sees technicians’ enthusiasm towards students on a daily basis. “They’re very concerned about students and their work,” he said. “They’re very knowledgeable, and often bend over backwards to do things they don’t have to do.”

Indeed, says Penny Cousineau-Levine, chair of Studio Arts, “we could not run any of the programs without the technicians. They are an incredibly important part of the pedagogical team.”

Eight permanent, full-time Studio Arts technicians are responsible for the following facilities and their use: photography, ceramics, print media, metal working, mold-making, fibres, drawing and painting.

Several part-time assistants help them manage the shops, labs and studios where students learn and practice the skills required to work in the media of their choice.

They manage budgets, order materials and equipment — and make sure equipment works. Some even repair machines themselves. They prepare studios for classes, ensuring the necessary materials are on hand. They teach students how to use specialized equipment, and show them, often one-on-one, what they learn about in class.

With the job comes an obsession with health and safety. Lynn Bastien explained as she gave a tour of the lithography studio.

“Technicians are generally on the frontline in making sure that health and safety policies are being respected.” Bastien, who is also a part-time print media instructor, is responsible for overseeing the safe storage, use and disposal of more than 350 toxic chemicals used in her area.

François Cloutier’s attempts to solve health and safety problems during his 23 years in the metal shop inspired him to return to school three years ago for a certificate in industrial relations.

He chose a program at UQAM because it offered five courses in health and safety. Cloutier, who sits on Concordia’s Central Advisory Health and Safety Committee and on his union’s Health and Safety Committee, says the technicians “are constantly fighting for better prevention and a more healthy environment.”

Indeed, one of Cloutier’s hopes for the new Fine Arts building planned for the site of the old York Cinema is that it will be properly designed to deal with the toxic materials that are used in the studios.

All the technicians have been drawn into the planning process for that building. At a recent monthly technicians’ meeting, Griffin described the time-consuming procedure she and Cloutier have devised to calculate the weight of the kilns for the architects so they can figure out how strong to build the ceramics studio floor. It’s another job on top of a long list of responsibilities, but the technicians are more than happy to do it.

“Our expertise can help ease the problems we’ve had here,” Griffin said. She hopes that the technicians will have a their say in the arrangement of the studios so that everyone can benefit from larger work and storage space and better ventilation.

Department administrator Tony Patricio summed up how the technicians feel about the future: “We’re all looking forward to moving to the new building to have the space to do a better job.”