Last month, two talented young women from the Peterborough area, Fernanda Fulcherberguer and Kate Giles, left home to pursue post-secondary studies in the visual arts. Fernanda is now in Savannah, Georgia at Savannah College of Art and Design, pursuing a degree in animation, while Kate is in Ottawa studying sustainable architecture at Carleton University.
These two emerging artists are the recipients of the Bierk Arts Fund 2021 Scholarships, a program that offers scholarships to young artists to pursue post-secondary studies in the visual arts. The scholarships are administered by the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) and funded by the Bierk Art Fund (BAF) of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough (CFGP).
The BAF was originally established in honor of champion of the arts Liz Bierk and her husband, painter David Bierk, and their contributions to the arts in Peterborough. The fund initially provided small, one-time grants to local arts organizations the Bierks had worked with and supported. In 2018, as art school tuition fees skyrocket everywhere, the fund’s advisors, Alex and Charlie Bierk, both visual artists, and EC3 executive director Su Ditta, chose to develop a program competitive post-secondary scholarship in visual arts.
David Bierk had taught visual arts for many years, including at a local Kenner Collegiate high school, so it seemed like a perfect fit for the BAF.
Jem Woolidge, one of the 2018 recipients, the first year of the scholarship, has a unique perspective on the entire BAF program process. Now in their fourth year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), where they studied a range of artistic media including textile art, but also painting and illustration, Jem also helped administer the BAF scholarship, as part of a summer position with EC3 after their first year at school. “Being on the other side – not wanting to get the funding, but wanting to make sure that enough people had a chance to get the funding – was a very different perspective,” Jem recalls. “Realizing the responsibility for this was very powerful.”
Jem remembers cycling around town schools to talk about BAF to graduates of art classes. This outreach is a critical part of the scholarship program, serving as a way to bridge the gap between the city’s high school arts programs and its wider arts community, and to connect with young people who may not be familiar with still the city’s art scene and the resources available. .
This year, with schools going virtual due to the pandemic, this awareness has taken a rather different form. Fernanda and Kate both heard about the scholarship through their high school art teachers – Tayler Morencie at Lakefield College School art teacher and Andrew Bigg from Thomas A. Stewart, respectively – who them. encouraged to apply. “Tayler encouraged me to try it out, just to see,” Fernanda says. “It was my first time competing for something.”
After passing an initial exam, Fernanda and Kate each met with artist and educator Dr Spencer Harrison and Peterborough Art Gallery curator Fynn Leitch, who have served on the scholarship jury since its inception, for a virtual exam. of the portfolio. “It was more based on reflection,” says Kate, “wanting me to talk about what I liked about my art, what I could change if I went back to rework it. We just had a great conversation. about art, which I’m always happy to do. Could talk about it for hours, probably.
“I was really scared,” admits Fernanda, “but I loved talking to the people who did. I never spoke to artists who gave me feedback on my work, so it was really cool to see what they thought of what I did.
Spencer and Fynn were very impressed with the two young women – their talent, their drive and their interest in using art to make a difference in the world.
“Not only is my dream to be a professional animator,” says Fernanda, “but I dream of being able to send a message and inspire the world through my drawings … and, maybe, make a difference in the world at through art. ” His artistic practice is based on the observation of life and fantasy. She observes and contemplates the world, and makes it a better place through her art.
Kate also tries to make the world a better place. His artistic approach is organic and iterative. Through the thoughtful layering of found materials, she reinterprets the elements of the world to make them more durable for future generations.
Kate’s passion for art and design led her to pursue studies in sustainable architecture. “Right now we are focusing on buildings that already exist,” Kate explains, “making wise use of the resources, money and manpower that have already been put forward. Instead of demolishing a building, how could we reuse it? How could we reinvent a new way of using space? “
In a normal year, the final stop on the BAF scholarship journey would be the public presentation of scholarship winners at the Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts. This annual gala hosted by EC3 and attended by the Mayor of Peterborough includes the presentation of the Peterborough Arts Awards to local artists and arts supporters in six categories and, traditionally, the announcement of BAF scholarship winners.
COVID-19 has postponed the mayor’s lunch this year, as he’s postponed so many other events, so Fernanda and Kate’s celebrations are yet to come, but Jem fondly remembers their lunch experience. “I had never really been taken seriously in my life,” they laugh. “It was also nice to see other people receiving awards and to get a feel for how the city felt for artists. There are all these officials and officials. It was very rewarding as a younger person, even if it was a little intimidating.
Many laureates talk about the validation offered by the prize. Payton Urbach, who won the award in 2019 and is now studying Fine Arts at Durham College, said: “For me winning the BAF scholarship made me feel like I was on the right track. It made me feel like I really was an artist, especially when you have other art-based people telling you that you can do it.
Alexina St. Pierre Farrow, also the 2019 recipient, who is currently completing a degree in art history at NSCAD, echoes this sentiment: “Winning the award was a huge honor. It made me feel like I was part of my local arts community. At a pivotal point in my life, it helped reassure me that I had a future in the arts.