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The Pentimento Collective empowers emerging artists through student-run exhibitions

By Dianne Miranda, December 10 2023—

The Pentimento Collective is a student-led organization from the Department of Art and Art Histories at the University of Calgary, committed to showcasing, exhibiting and supporting the visual artworks of undergraduate students. They aim to provide opportunities for artists to make connections and build networks with both one another and the greater community.

Sophia Garcia and Mehreen Ali, co-presidents of the collective, explain that their opening receptions play a crucial role in engaging the broader university community and those less familiar with gallery experiences. They serve as gateways for individuals to explore and appreciate the world of art. 

“[The opening exhibitions] mark such a big day for [artists’] achievements, and of course, ours as well as a collective,” said Garcia. “What I always say when we hold opening receptions is to always invite your friends and family.”

“A lot of the people at the opening night that I talked to had actually never gone to a gallery before,” said Ali. “And my friends also, they [said], ‘you know what, this is something that I am interested in now because this is a very interesting experience to see this come together and mingle amongst people.’”

There is a rich history in these two exhibitions and they have gone through a number of transformations. PUSH occurs in the spring/summer and is meant to push fine arts students into the world and into the public to exhibit their work. PULL, the alternative, which occurs in the fall/winter is meant to pull artists out of their comfort zones.

The 2023 PULL exhibition ran from Nov. 6 to Nov. 24 and featured 27 artists with mediums ranging from photography, sculptures, printmaking, paintings and more. 

“We always decide the theme before the designated exhibitions. It is more so about what we want overall to engage the audience and have them associate us with, so it is usually a colour. Regarding the work that we accept, it is usually everything, every medium because we do try to include everybody,” said Ali. 

“We try to accept as diverse works as much as possible, exhibit different talents, different artistic backgrounds that our artists have,” said Garcia.

Photo by Dianne Miranda

The 2023 PUSH exhibition that happened earlier in the spring was exhibited in Contemporary Calgary. In the upcoming year, the collective aims to continue strengthening connections with the broader art community.

“We don’t know the logistics of next year’s exhibition yet, but we are hoping to include as many external organizations in these exhibitions as possible. We are really trying to increase our community engagement to give networking opportunities to students who do exhibit in our exhibitions,” said Garcia. 

Ali also described other goals and aspirations for the collective, in addition to continuing and making these exhibitions viable and sustainable and finding dedicated individuals who will carry on the mission of the collective as many of the committee members are graduating. 

“Not only do we want to continue these exhibitions, we were thinking of things like pop-up exhibitions, just like participating in the community more and fundraising,” she said. 

Ali and Garcia acknowledge that there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with seeing one’s work exhibited in a gallery space and being part of a team that organizes these exhibitions. 

“Both of us feel like artists do not get enough recognition in this world, especially when you’re young. This is something that gives them the experience of being in an exhibition, knowing what it’s like and knowing what to expect when you get out there,” Ali said. 

“It is different exhibiting your work in the school, but when it is in a gallery space, there is that sense of pride and so, we are grateful that we get to give that opportunity to students, especially undergraduate students who might not see these opportunities for them elsewhere,” said Garcia.  

The co-presidents stress the collective’s overarching goal — to provide both artists and the community with valuable experiences. The Pentimento Collective continues to make a mark and advance U of C through its vibrant contributions to the art scene. For more updates about the collective, visit their website, or Instagram page

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