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Breaking the museum wall

By Antoinette Mercurio

The School of Interior Design (SID) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) have partnered to co-host an upcoming conference.

From June 20 to 23 at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) and AGO, faculty, artists and industry professionals will gather for Discursive Space: Breaking Barriers to Effective Spatial Communications. The three-day conference explores the concept of discursive space and how to engage the community in museum exhibitions. Presentations and dialogue will focus on the museum as a place of learning; the museum as a way to connect with the community; and how to engage visitors with exhibits using various tools of social media and technology.

SID professor Jana Macalik is chair of the conference committee. Other committee members include interior design professor Deborah Wang and graduate student Christophe Jivraj, who also was a peer reviewer. The conference will feature presentations from Macalik and professors Andrew Furman, interior design, and Ingrid Mida from fashion.

“It started as an idea between me and Deborah Wang after teaching similar fourth-year studios,” Macalik said. “Once we saw an opportunity in some of the exhibition pedagogy and practice, we felt this was an opportunity to develop a conference as a way to explore the content.”

Students have become a crucial part of the conference. The work of recent interior design graduate Evan Pavka was selected to be the featured Saturday night gala event. His exhibit, Memento Mori: Dialogues with Death, the City and the Museum, will take participants on a tour of St. James Cemetery where they’ll engage with four objects and identities of individuals interred there and learn more about a famous person in the city or an unknown citizen.

“I am interested in spaces that, as a culture, we typically attempt to hide,” Pavka said. “Discursive Space has enabled me to explore and examine space through an increasingly critical lens. Typically, design studio courses explore the pragmatic and emotive nature of space focusing on the tools used to compose or create both. However, little focus is placed on dissecting the structure of urban spaces, especially radically opposing spaces. Design is primarily focused on problem solving, using space as a catalyst, where as Discursive Space has enabled me to use a hybrid practice of design and participatory art to reveal both a problem and solution within the museum experience.”

Pavka isn’t the only new graduate to take part in the conference. Fresh off organizing the SID year-end show, Sarah Prest and Naomi Tallin have made their mark on the discursive conference by handling schedule, and hospitality and volunteer coordination. Macalik says students bring energy and alternate ideas to the organization, while grad students are able to be involved with the content development. 

For more information on the conference, visit


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