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20 Pieces, 4 Cultures, 1 Space

Sketch of red bench

20 Pieces, 4 Cultures, 1 Space

March 23–July 23, 2004

University of Toronto Art Centre

20 Pieces, 4 Cultures, 1 Space: Immigrant Furniture of Western Canada, 1870-1930 will display furniture constructed by the Doukhobors, Hutterites, Mennonites and Ukrainians during their initial stages of settlement in Western Canada between 1870 and 1930. Leaving Eastern Europe for a variety of reasons, these immigrants came to Canada for the promise of land, work, opportunities, or religious freedom. The physical characteristics of the colourful cupboards, cradles, benches, chests, and tables, from elaborated carvings and decoration to simple lines and meticulous construction, reveal the different values and beliefs of the four cultural groups. Photographs and images that situate the pieces in their western context will also be displayed.

20 Pieces, 4 Cultures, 1 Space has both historical and contemporary relevance. The shifting significance of these objects through time, from construction to collection, reveals the ways in which different contexts and value systems contribute to the interpretation of objects. A particular focus of this exhibition will be the values the furniture makers embedded in their work, and the value of the pieces in today’s world, including their place in the antique market and in museums and galleries.

Other themes of the exhibition include questions of function, style and form, immigration experiences, and the cultural traditions or adaptations of these four groups in the Canadian West. Visitors will be encouraged to learn more about the four cultures in an educational immersion area, and invited to share their thoughts on a response wall.

The exhibition marks the first collaboration between the University of Toronto Art Centre and the graduating class of the Master’s Degree Program of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto.

Complementing the exhibition is the virtual exhibition Colours of Tradition: Western Canadian Folk Furniture from Eastern European Immigrants that traces the immigration of the Doukhobors, Hutterites, Mennonites and Ukrainians to Western Canada using images of the furniture, photomontages, maps, and interviews.

Opening Reception

Tuesday March 23, 2004, 12pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Title Image: Ukrainian bench bed.