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Su-Ying Lee

Su-Ying Lee

Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design

Degree: Art and Art History (Bachelor of Arts)

Year of graduation: 2002

Su-Ying Lee is always seeking new and unusual ways to bring art to the public. She has staged art exhibitions inside a revolving door at Toronto’s Metro Hall and in a Queen Street West corner store. As the Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, she has both institutional experience and a number of independent projects to her credit. Her work includes assignments with the Art Gallery of Mississauga, the Blackwood Gallery and the Canadian Art Foundation. Prior to beginning her current post in January 2013, Su-Ying completed a one-year curatorial residency at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. She also holds an M.A. in Visual Studies, Curatorial (2011) from the University of Toronto. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Collaborating with artists to develop projects - particularly those suited to unique situations, including site-specific work and unusual platforms for artists. I also like strategy - thinking about how one project relates to the next - and building upon each previous project. 

I even enjoy the day-to-day unglamorous work of logistical planning for exhibitions - shipping and installation. It's exciting to see an exhibition come together. And of course, the big celebration of an opening reception which gives me the opportunity to socialize with the public, artists and colleagues! 

What is the biggest challenge facing a professional in your field?

There are not enough curatorial jobs for all the new curatorial practice degrees that are being created. Balancing classroom education with hands-on experience is crucial. One cannot expect to be hired with a degree but no real-life experience. I volunteered, worked for minimum wage, did every menial task associated with galleries to learn about the field before I even decided what I wanted my role to be. Through my volunteer work, I was able to get one-on-one time with gallery staff to learn about their jobs. Once I settled upon curating, I was equipped with a realistic idea of what tasks and knowledge were necessary.

What advice would you offer a newly-minted Art and Art History graduate?

Being an artist or working within the arts is not for the faint of heart. To endure, you have to know what your skills are and develop your voice. Making art takes life-long research and practice. It's important to continuously evolve, whether you are on the creative or administrative side of the field. 

What was the best lesson you learned at Sheridan?

The UTM/Sheridan program offers both in-studio training and art history studies which makes for a more well-rounded education. The studio work familiarized me with artistic practice. As a curator, this firsthand experience is exceptionally valuable. Also, studio work taught me how to anticipate potential issues and delays, how to strategize and problem-solve. 

Read more about Su-Ying in The Globe and Mail

Learn more about the Sheridan/University of Toronto Mississauga Art and Art History Program.
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