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Oct. 4, 2018

Alumni, staff and faculty converged at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Toronto office for a private preview of two Nuit Blanche installations on Sept. 27.

From Toronto, with Love and The Three Chapters of Solitude were two of the over 300 installations displayed during Toronto’s annual all-night art festival. At the preview event, alumni, staff and faculty explored the theme of belonging and the meaning of a suitcase as interpreted by more than two dozen artists.

Not Just Tourists Toronto (NJTT) curated From Toronto, with Love by asking more than 22 artists to transform suitcases to reflect ideas of travel, destinations and health care. NJTT, led by Laurier alumnus Avi D’Souza (BBA ’07), is an organization that collects unused medical supplies and sends them in suitcases with volunteers all over the globe.

“I was struck by how meaningful the exhibits were and how people poured so much of themselves into the suitcases in the From Toronto, with Love installation,” said Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy. “The participation of Laurier’s Toronto office in Nuit Blanche is a perfect example of how our university embeds itself in the communities it serves. We are thrilled to participate in the city’s arts and cultural landscape in this way.”

Two of the suitcases featured artwork by members of the Laurier community. C. Elizabeth Best, an Indigenous graduate student at Laurier, completed a compelling piece titled My Fear of Going Missing. The piece pays tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, reflecting on her own fears.

Jasmine Lai, a Laurier student working as part of a co-op placement in the university’s recruitment and admissions department, helped create My Home Away from Home, a piece dedicated to the new experiences, environment, friendships, education and growth that shape an individual during their years at Laurier.

The second exhibit, The Three Chapters of Solitude, is a series of short videos reflecting on personal interpretations of distance and intimacy produced by filmmaker Henry Heng Lu.

Laurier alumna and NJTT volunteer Danielle Stewart (BBA ’12) said she enjoyed how each artist interpreted the suitcases, and how the art installation allowed people to think differently about travel.

“Both D’Souza and I have strong ties to Laurier, and we’re really glad that Laurier agreed to host us,” she said. “I think it shows how dedicated Laurier is to helping the community and fostering arts.”

Carolyn Hawthorn, university relations manager at Laurier’s Toronto office, said she was pleased with the outcome of the night.

“The event was a rare opportunity to connect directly with the artists behind both From Toronto, with Love and The Three Chapters of Solitude,” said Hawthorn. “The goal of the intimate affair was to continue the discussion about some of the important themes, ideas, and issues these suitcases represented.”

Eliana Suarez and Eleanor Ty, Laurier professors who were in attendance during the event, said they both were impressed by the diversity and creativity of the artists.

“I was interested because many of the artists seemed to work on the theme of displacement and dislocation,” said Ty. “We often think of tourists as rather frivolous and enjoying themselves, but this cause is really about extra baggage, and how you can make use of the extra space you have to do a good deed.”

Suarez also found a common theme of displacement and identity.

“It is incredible that the artists can represent how fluid our identities are, and how fluid our lives are,” said Suarez. “The idea is hard to capture in text, but I believe in art, it's way more powerful.”

During the Nuit Blanche public event on Sept. 29, more than 5,000 guests explored the two exhibits at Laurier’s Toronto office.

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