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Fine Art alumnus spreading beauty across the country
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Alison McGee
Published: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Every year, the Fanshawe College Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to Fanshawe grads who have made a difference in their field. The ceremony traditionally involves a dinner gala held on campus, but last year, when alumnus Terry Graff was honoured, it was a little different.
On July 6, 2011, alumni from Fanshawe gathered at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where Graff is the Deputy Director and Chief Curator, to honor him there. “Since Terry could not attend (the ceremony in London), we decided to visit Fredericton to bring his award to him,” explained Kacey German, Alumni Officer for Fanshawe College. The setting was a fitting venue for the ceremony since Graff was being honored for his work as a leader and visionary of Canada’s art culture.
Before Graff ever came to Fanshawe, he knew precisely what he wished to gain from the experience. “I've had a deep and all-consuming passion for the visual arts ever since I can remember, and knew I wanted to go to art school at a very young age,” Graff revealed. “When I started at Fanshawe, I wasn't thinking about a career. I just wanted to learn as much as I could about art. I still feel very much the same way, and I'm still learning.”
Graff graduated from Fanshawe’s Fine Arts program in 1976, and during his time in the program he drew inspiration from those around him. “Don Bonham, an incredible artist from Oklahoma, certainly stands out,” Graff explained. “He made fantastical fiberglass sculptures. In my third year at the college, Ben Linssen, a superb painter, greatly encouraged me to further my studies at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, the Netherlands, where he had been a student.”
Graff’s time spent at Fanshawe proved to be more educational than an average art program. “One of the truly wonderful things about my experience of the Fine Art program at Fanshawe is that it didn't seem to have any borders,” he said. “It involved full immersion in the London art scene at the time.” This educational experience led to more opportunities, such as meeting a number of working artists and helping to install exhibitions of their work at the old Trajectory Gallery in London, Ontario. “This was a highly valuable and authentic hands-on component of my education.”
After graduating, Graff’s career took off in many different directions. “I've been very lucky in finding opportunities in the visual arts,” he confessed. He has worked as an artist, a high school art teacher, a university art professor, an art writer and critic, an education curator, a curator of contemporary and historical art as well as a director of three different public art galleries in Canada.
Now the Curator of a New Brunswick art gallery and an honored graduate, Graff offered this advice to students: “Follow your passion, whether you're in the field of visual arts or not. Success takes total commitment, but evolves naturally if you're passionate about what you're doing. Fanshawe offers the ideal environment to find that out. It did for me!”