When Melanie Colosimo stepped into her role as Mount Saint Vincent University’s new Art Gallery Director in mid-2023, it was a full-circle moment. An artist herself, and a curator too, with deep roots in Atlantic Canada’s arts community, the MSVU Art Gallery was where she had her first museum exhibition in 2015.

Journey to MSVU

Melanie Colosimo, in a red shirt, measuring and cutting fabric

Photo: Melanie Colosimo

Originally from New Brunswick, Melanie’s formal education in the arts began with a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Mount Allison University. She made a mark at Mt A winning the Marster’s Prize for Humour in Art, a Department Award of excellence and Drawing Prize. She was also an organizer of the annual Fine Arts fair and DJ at CKDU radio. She then completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Windsor in Ontario.

Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Melanie worked in education and installation at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. She has also volunteered with the Association of Artist-Run-Centres from the Atlantic, Eyelevel Gallery and the Khyber Centre for the Arts.

In 2008, she joined the team at the Anna Leonowens Gallery at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD), where she worked until taking on her new role at MSVU. She began as a Collections Assistant and finished her time at NSCAD as Director/Curator of the Anna Leonowens Gallery Systems. In 2023, she also served for a period as the Interim Academic Dean, extending her contributions beyond curatorial work.

Reflecting on her tenure at NSCAD, Melanie said, “After being there for a significant period, I gained valuable experience and aimed to elevate the institution to new heights, building upon the legacy of previous staff. However, I felt it was time to pass the torch to someone with a fresh vision. That’s when this opportunity [at MSVU] opened up, and it felt like perfect timing.”

A heartfelt connection to the MSVU Art Gallery

One of Melanie Colosimo's art pieces, titled "When is a fence a ladder", made of Reflective nylon and ployester.
Photo: “When is a fence a ladder?” by Melanie Colosimo

Melanie was drawn to her new role at MSVU due to her longstanding admiration for the gallery and its legacy. “I’ve always been a huge supporter of the Mount Gallery. As an artist myself, the gallery’s physical space has always been a significant source of inspiration for me,” she said. “It’s a space where artists can work, experiment, and play, which has been a vital aspect of my own artistic practice.”

Another reason Melanie was drawn to the position was the gallery’s commitment to promoting women and diverse artists from the Atlantic region, as well as its dedication to accessibility. “I have always seen the MSVU art gallery as a place that quietly pursued progress in those areas within the arts community, and I have always admired it for that,” she added.

Melanie’s own media are drawing and soft sculpture. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally in venues such as the Art Gallery of Windsor (ON), Bonavista Biennale (NL), the Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou), and the He Xiangning Art Museum (Shenzhen).

“My relationship to Atlantic Canada and my nostalgia for it have left an indelible mark on my work. I am interested in how communities are formed and thrive but also fade and transition with the fluctuating economic landscape of our region.” (Learn more about Melanie’s art at melaniecolosimo.com.)

Fostering artist relationships

At NSCAD, Melanie focused on mentorship and providing student artists with opportunities to be part of their first professional exhibitions. Though the pace was fast, with around 100 shows per year, her transition to the MSVU Art Gallery has given her the chance to cultivate deeper connections with artists and bring their exhibition dreams to life.

“I now have the opportunity to spend more time with artists, helping them realize their dream exhibitions and projects,” Melanie said. “I also know what it’s like to be a nervous artist, including the pressure and insecurity that can come with exhibiting. With almost 20 years in this industry, I know when to step in and offer assistance or step back and let things happen.”

An artwork by Melanie Colosimo titled, "Sync or Swim", installed at Champney's West, NL
Photo: “Sync or Swim” by Melanie Colosimo

A vibrant future for the MSVU Art Gallery

With a strong team in place, Melanie is committed to making the MSVU art gallery a dynamic hub for both the campus and wider communities. “I am so excited to be working with staff who have a rich history here at the Mount and who are able to provide such incredible support and insights,” she said.

Melanie aims to showcase local artists and their work while ensuring accessibility and diversity, whether through in-person experiences at the gallery or online engagement through social media platforms and the Art Gallery’s website.

She also plans to further spotlight the Atlantic region’s artistic talent and promote it beyond just the local level. “I am committed to maintaining a strong focus on the Atlantic region, but not solely limited to showcasing their work locally. The Atlantic region has been somewhat overlooked nationally, and I want to help promote the incredible artists and work we have here to the rest of the country and beyond.”

Highlighting the unique qualities of the Atlantic arts community, she added, “The Atlantic region is special. We’re essentially creating art on the edge of the world, with the ocean as our backdrop.”

Looking forward, Melanie noted, “We have 150 years of history here at MSVU, and decades of exhibitions that people should know about. We want to reestablish the gallery as a cornerstone of the Mount community, a place where people can have a unique experience, whether that be a moment of quiet reflection or a celebration.”

On now at the gallery:

Annual Mount Community Show, January 17, 2024 – February 24, 2024

The Annual Mount Community Show has become a much-anticipated opportunity for MSVU’s students, staff, faculty, alumni and their family members to showcase their creative works. Entries include visual art, music, performance, poetry, craft, literature, and more.