rochdale college: a free school happening

curatorial project with Sunny Kerr at the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC)

Following the trajectory (and stealing the name) of Rochdale College’s open-sourced education model, we presented a month-long free school, art show, and archive asking anyone and everyone to lead a class, make an art, and perhaps learn a thing. All housed inside an institution that is becoming more and more impossible to afford. Curated with Sunny Kerr at the Art Lounge, University of Toronto Art Centre. 2009.

Rochdale College
An Exhibition and Free School Happening
At the University of Toronto Art Centre art lounge September 30 – October 31

Toronto – The University of Toronto Art Centre’s Art Lounge will host an exhibition on Rochdale College from September 30 – October 31. The exhibition does not claim to present a complete historical portrait of Rochdale, but instead prepares a historical collision in which Rochdale never stopped. The fragments of the wreckage will allow us to recontextualize Rochdale in all its forms.

Rochdale was an experiment in education, cooperative living, and juvenocracy. In 1968, an 18- story high-rise at Huron and Bloor opened its doors to Toronto’s young new radicals, ready to rethink pedagogy and redesign the institution. Rochdale was as buoyed by late sixties counterculture revolution as it was burdened by its free spirits and drug culture. By 1969, Rochdale’s population more than doubled with squatters and crashers, blurring the line between educational cooperative and flophouse.

Looking inward and looking beyond, the exhibition is not to judge Rochdale as a failure or a success but rather to present Rochdale as a kaleidoscope of people, activities, ambitions, distractions, ideas, and details multiplied over a course of approximately 8 years- it was communal as much as it was individualistic.

The exhibition is comprised of three main components: Artifacts, Student Art, and a series of free classes. The artifacts are borrowed from Coach House Press, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, OISE, and the basements of former residents, following the paper trail of Rochdale’s stream of consciousness. Student art, in a variety of media, draws from the spirit of Rochdale. Included in the student work is a bulletin board used to encourage a dialogue among participants, a nod to Rochdale’s Living Laboratory on “Bulletin Board Theory and Practice.” The classes retain Rochdale’s initial emphasis on participatory and experiential education. The classes will address a wide range of topics and will be approached through a wide range of styles, from the most activist urgency to the most irreverent.

Other events include: a screening of Ron Mann’s documentary on Rochdale, DREAM TOWER, co- presented by the Association of Part-Time Undergraduates. Thursday October 8 2009, 6:30 pm. FREE.
Also: Artist’s Talk with Reena Katz: Culture of Power and the power of Culture. Starting with a case study from her recent art practice, Katz will lead a discussion of Edward Said’s text, and discuss the intersections and divergences of power structures between artists, publics, and cultural institutions. Thursday October 15 2009 6:30pm. FREE.

The University of Toronto Art Centre Art Lounge is located at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus, at 15 King’s College Circle. The art lounge student exhibition program aims both to encourage rigorous aesthetic exploration and to reflect the diverse practices in student visual art.
Curated by Rebecca Noone, Master of Museum Studies student at UofT, in conjunction with Sunny
Kerr, Student and Education Programs Coordinator for UTAC.

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