Brandon University graduates received art print in new Convocation tradition

June 9, 2022

New Nursing grad Jeanette Alotinto displays her degree and the custom art print that she received at Convocation.

A colourful new Brandon University tradition will soon be proudly displayed in rooms around the world.

Brandon University’s Class of 2022 received a unique new piece of art along with their degree parchments when they crossed the stage at Convocation. The art, which is about 8”x10” and suitable for framing, features a portrayal of BU’s Kavanagh Courtyard at the centre of campus that evokes a transition back to in-person learning.

“Receiving the print alongside my degree during Convocation was a lovely surprise, and I am glad to hear that this new tradition that emerged from the pandemic will carry forward,” said Madeleine Kruth, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies program as part of the Class of 2022. “While we haven’t been able to spend as much time on campus these past two years, the artwork is a beautiful memento that evokes both the physical space and the creative work that comes out of BU. I look forward to displaying this piece alongside my degree as a reminder of the unique experience I’ve had as a BU student.”

Grace Buitenhuis’ art portrays the courtyard at the heart of campus, capturing a sense of transition.

The artwork, which was commissioned especially for this year’s grads, turns a pandemic-era inspiration into a new BU tradition. In 2020, with Convocation upended amidst the then-new Covid-19 pandemic, BU officials found themselves thrust into “unprecedented times.”

“Convocation is a tradition that stretches back more than a century at Brandon University, and we were in the final stages of planning when we suddenly had to hit the brakes,” recalled University Registrar Andrea McDaniel, whose office coordinates the ceremony. “We did our utmost to create a Covid-safe celebration that could honour our graduating students properly, and one of the strategies we hit on was to gift them a piece of art.”

That first year, the University worked with alumnus and famed plein air painter Weiming Zhao to source a painting of the campus’ iconic Clark Hall. The painting was printed with special gold touches and delivered to each grad.

“With Weiming’s heartfelt style and the amazing portrait he made of Clark Hall, we sent students a reminder of the campus that they had had to suddenly vacate at the onset of the pandemic,” McDaniel said. “It received such a strong response that we immediately slotted it into our plans for the following year, when we again were forced to host a virtual Convocation in lieu of an in-person celebration.”

That second year, the University worked with staff member Curt Shoultz, a celebrated cartoonist. His work, which was again printed with gold touches for each graduate, featured a menagerie of cartoon animal students ‘breaking out’ of their virtual video-conference and making their way to future success.

“Once again, we were really heartened by the response,” McDaniel said. “Art touches people in a way that words cannot, and especially in a time of disconnection and isolation, it was so meaningful to be reminded through Curt’s whimsy, humour, and detailed touches that we all share a connection as members of the BU community.”

This year, with a return to an in-person Convocation finally in the cards, BU opted to continue the annual artwork as a new tradition. The University worked with the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (AGSM) to identify a local artist who could capture the feeling of returning to in-person at Brandon University, through the past academic year, and especially at Convocation.

Grace Buitenhuis is a lifelong Brandon resident who has previously exhibited at the AGSM, most recently as part of the I {heart} Bdn community gallery exhibit. Painting from a viewpoint just outside of the Kavanagh Courtyard, Buitenhuis’s piece captures a transition from sketch to watercolour, from winter to summer, and from pandemic restrictions to a fuller in-person experience. The courtyard is left empty, so viewers can imagine themselves back at the heart of campus.

“I was very honoured to be chosen as this year’s artist,” Buitenhuis said.

“After all the struggles of the past two years, I wanted to make a piece that felt like a breath of fresh air for the graduates, and to serve as a reminder that colour will always come back into the world.”

Prints of Buitenhuis’ work, again with the gold touches, were presented to graduates as they crossed the Convocation stage. Brandon University retains the original piece, which will be added to BU’s art collection.

“As we carry this new tradition into the future, we will also be growing an important collection of artwork that reflects each year on campus, and we are actively looking for the right place to proudly display this collection permanently,” McDaniel said. “We hope each graduate finds a special place for their print as well.”

Brandon University is currently developing guidelines for selecting a new artist each year and expects to begin looking for next year’s artist in early 2023.

For more information, please contact:

Andrea McDaniel
University Registrar
204.727.7310
McDanielA@BrandonU.ca

Grant Hamilton
Director, Marketing and Communications
204.571.8542
HamiltonG@BrandonU.ca

To receive any BU publication in an alternate format: Communications@BrandonU.ca