Interview: Where Are They Now?
Featuring: Chanel DesRoches, owner of Necessary Arts Collective, written by Laura Vautour.
Chanel DesRoches is a multi-disciplinary artist and a recent graduate from the Studio Art program at the University of Guelph. Her focus is in painting, drawing, and printmaking. She is also the owner of Necessary Arts Collective. In the midst of the pandemic, Necessary Arts was in jeopardy of closing, Chanel took on the leadership role as owner and kept the studio space alive. Chanel and her partner, Stephanie Bryenton who is also a Guelph graduate, currently own and manage Necessary Arts Collective.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself entering the first year of a Studio Art degree?
The first year of a Studio Art degree is jam-packed with learning about different mediums, practices, critical thinking, etc. It is designed to test you, in areas you probably never thought you would be tested. My advice would be to not sell yourself short and put yourself in a box when you are just starting out as an art student. The early studio classes are made to introduce many things at once so you can get a broad idea of the fine arts world. I definitely think I was close-minded when working with mediums like stop-motion animation, sculpture, and themed assignments in general. Take everything with a grain of salt, and accept the good, bad, and constructive feedback at every opportunity you can.
How long has it been since you graduated? Tell us a little about your practice and how it has evolved throughout your degree and upon graduation?
I graduated from the Studio Art program in June of 2019! My practice that I am continuing now outside of school actually began in my 4th and final year which was brought upon in Painting III. I like to think that my last semester of university was sort of like an ‘I know what I want now’ type of moment where the direction of my work felt right. Working primarily in painting, I also integrate drawing and printmaking into my practice as well. A lot of my themes float around ideas behind emotion, anxiety and resilience; with that I’ve translated it into a mode of abstraction. I enjoy working at a large scale as it gives me the ability to make energetic and excessive gestures, but it also offers an opportunity to integrate detail amongst it all.
What was the best piece of advice you received from a Studio Art professor at Guelph, and how has it impacted your creative practice?
The best advice I’ve received from a professor is… to make work. Whatever comes of it, produce as much art as you can. As simple as that sounds, upper-year students can get too much into their own head about their work that they lose sight of the fact that we are still in the earlier stages of our practice. Making work and producing art in any and all forms is going to help you learn and broaden your ideas and capabilities. If you don’t experiment, you will never know.
What has been the most insightful lesson you have learned regarding a career in the art field since your graduation?
As harsh as it may be, the world of fine art is a little lonely if you don’t have an ‘in’ anywhere. And for some time, you won’t. A career in art is like a long-term self-investment that you are hoping will pay off one day. And that’s okay! Because at the end of the day - if you are getting a degree in art, are you really in it for a corporate job and a high-paying salary? Probably not. I’ve learned that the effort and dedication you put into your art, will eventually speak for itself.
How would you encourage an artist who is unable to afford studio space at this time? And what would be your advice to an artist interested but hesitant to invest in their own studio space?
First and foremost, when considering the idea of getting a studio, I always told myself “if I don’t do it now, I never will”. However, not everyone can make that jump. Having a studio space is the same as renting your own place; there needs to be a financial commitment. Something to think about is the level of commitment to your practice. If you put the work in and spend the time, it will slowly start to show its worth. A studio space was SO important for me to get after leaving behind the university studios. The university studios are the only reason I was able to produce the work that I did! A question to ask yourself is: Is this studio going to help me make work that I wouldn’t be able to make otherwise? If you want art to be your career path, I would start with a getting studio as soon as you are able to. It will completely transform your productivity and create a sense of structure within your studio life.
Describe the transition from your role as an artist to the owner of Necessary Arts Collective? How has running a studio challenged you in your professional development as a practicing artist and community member?
This is actually a very tough question for me because I always have a lot of things on-the-go. I am a store manager & designer by day and an artist and studio owner by night. I always try to make my own personal art practice a priority, but since taking on the studio, I need to be able to quickly switch gears. I always try to be a fellow working artist instead of titling myself as the owner and being an authority figure around the studio. One of the biggest changes with owning the studio has been that I can’t just think about myself anymore - I have all the artists' interests in mind and need to make the studio an evolving and motivating environment. I always strive to offer opportunities to Necessary Arts Collective members and make their time at the studio worthwhile and memorable. The nature of the business is that it is a rental space where artists will come and go multiple times in a year, sometimes in months! Being in such a central Downtown Guelph location has helped the collective feel involved with the City and all the arts projects they are running. I also try to reach out to other Guelph artists to participate in shows, art sales, markets, and more, but COVID-19 has put those plans aside (for now anyway). I am looking forward to the time where we can have real-life events and community engagement opportunities for the studio and local artists!
Do you have any other nuggets of wisdom or encouragement for Studio Art students, especially during this time of COVID-19 and restricted access to studios?
Don’t let COVID-19 restrict your practice. Working from home is an incredible opportunity; it will challenge you to work with what’s right in front of you. Creating your own home studio and practice may open your mind to learn what it's like to make art and work from home, or it will teach you that you are someone that needs to get out and find a studio space to be productive. This is a learning curve for everyone; build upon it and take advantage of this very different time in the world. You will remember this time in your art career forever!
Thank you, Chanel, for sharing your experience in the Studio Art program and what you have been up to with Necessary Arts.
Head to Chanel’s website to see her own practice www.chaneldesroches.com and www.necessaryarts.ca to see what Necessary Arts Collective offers the Guelph community. Follow Chanel on Instagram @chaneldesroches and Necessary Arts @necessaryarts to keep up to date with Chanel’s practice and everything that Necessary Arts Collective is doing.
Laura Vautour is in her fourth year of the Studio Art program with a Creative Writing minor. When she isn’t writing or creating art, she loves to take care of her plants. Through the interview series Where Are They Now? Laura’s goal is to inspire current students by showcasing Studio Art alumni who work in the arts.
If you are an alumnus from the College of Arts at the University of Guelph and are interested in sharing where you are at today, please email Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org to be interviewed.