Meet one of the Department of Visual Arts Summer Resident Artists

By Greg Campbell Posted: July 23, 2018 1:15 p.m.

Summer Resident Artist Madhu Kumar works on one of the paintings for Edmonton’s Tawatina Bridge public art commission.
Summer Resident Artist Madhu Kumar works on one of the paintings for Edmonton’s Tawatina Bridge public art commission. Photo: Trevor Hopkin, U of R Photography

It’s been an exciting time for artist Madhu Kumar since earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts with Great Distinction in June 2017.

First, Professor David Garneau asked Kumar to be one of the student assistants on his Tawatina Bridge public art commission. She continues to work on the two-year project that will see the installation of 400, primarily Métis, Papaschase and Cree-themed art pieces on the Edmonton bridge.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for me to be involved with David and paint wonderful stories of Indigenous peoples,” she says. “The paintings refer to stories from Indigenous oral history. This whole process is a breathtaking experience for me. To think that my work will be there forever. That in itself would be a big accomplishment and to have my family and friends see my work, I will feel very proud.”

Then, on May 30, Kumar began serving as one of the 12 Department of Visual Arts Summer Resident Artists. The residency affords Kumar studio space in the Dr. William Riddell Centre and access to equipment and facilities. She also plays a mentoring role by making herself available to meet with current Visual Arts students. As well, she has committed to delivering an artist’s talk at a future Art for Lunch lecture.

The department has been running the Summer Residency Program for about 15 years and each summer receives 10 to 16 applications. The program is designed, in part, to help support alumni who have been away from University for a least a year to realize a project that will help their career as an emerging artist. Successful applicants are selected by a jury of Visual Arts faculty members.

“The residency allows me to research, explore, and create my project-based work to further develop my practice,” Kumar says.

In 2015, Kumar’s painting, Let me be more, was purchased for the President’s Art Collection. The artwork is located on the fourth floor of the Classroom Building.

Kumar’s painting Let me be more is part of the President’s Art Collection.

Kumar’s painting Let me be more is part of the President’s Art Collection. Photo: Trevor Hopkin, U of R Photography.

The painting is part of a series that came out of Kumar’s experience of interacting with immigrant women at Regina’s Immigrant Women Centre. Kumar spent time with each woman, visiting them in their homes, photographing them and recording their stories. The resulting portraits are painted on large canvases, four feet by five feet.

“As an artist my journey is not simply about me creating art and trying to gain recognition or popularity,” the India-born artist says. “My focus is on promoting the advancement of women from different backgrounds.”

Kumar has two solo exhibitions coming up featuring her immigrant women series. The first begins August 9 at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach and runs until the end of September. On September 30 there will be a closing reception and an artist talk at 1:30 p.m. The subjects of Kumar’s portraits will also be in attendance. A second exhibition of the immigrant series kicks off on December 16 with a reception at the Shurniak Art Gallery in Assiniboia.

“Life is not the same when you move to a new place or country,” Kumar observes. “There are numerous challenges that one faces as an immigrant, especially if you are a woman. There are a number of barriers and difficulties. Being an immigrant woman myself, I know the difficulties these women face and can connect to them very well.”

Kumar completes her residency on August 16.

The other 2018 Summer Residency Program Resident Artists are: Jeffrey Altwasser, Cruz Anderson, Angela Asherbranner, Heather Cline, Simon Fuh, Jay Kimble, Barbara Meneley, John Peet, Jess Richter, Jamie Slawson, and Melissa Strachan.  

If you are interested in applying for the Summer Residency Program, email Sean Whalley at for more information.