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Call for Submissions

Deadline: Friday, August 5, 2016, 11:59 pm

The Varley Art Gallery of Markham is seeking submissions for its upcoming exhibition Mother Tongue. Slated for the summer of 2017, this exhibition invites artists practicing in all mediums to consider the various connections that exist between identity and language. What is language and how does it define who we are? How can oral and written traditions inform visual artistic practices?

As professor John Edwards explains, “The language we use forms an important part of our sense of who we are - of our identity.” [1] Yet, in ever increasingly globalized societies, this sociolinguistic identity is not often singular. The language we speak at home, or learned as a child – our mother tongue – may not be the same one we use in our everyday lives. How does this affect our sense of self and of others? The City of Markham, for example, is one Canada’s most diverse municipalities, with over 50 per cent of its population having a first language other than French or English. As with many towns and cities across Canada, the linguistic fabric of Markham’s community is rich and diverse, yet that very richness can create barriers and give rise to miscommunications. The study of sociolinguistic identities naturally elicits conversations about the cultural, political and historical aspects of language. How does language evolve from one generation to another and from place to place? As Canada prepares to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we also mark the ‘birth’ of bilingualism in this country. While French and English may be considered the original "charter" languages of Canada, we must also recognize the large number of Indigenous and immigrant voices that contribute to our idea of nationhood.

Submissions to Mother Tongue are encouraged to explore language and identity from local, national or global context. Possible topics may include (but are not limited to): bilingualism, multilingualism, minority language communities and rights, dialects, accents, slang, jargon, endangered languages, assimilation, language revival, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and its report on the rights of Indigenous languages, programming languages, sign language (ASL and LSQ) and other non-verbal forms of communication.


About the Varley Art Gallery of Markham:

The Varley Art Gallery of Markham is a municipal gallery with a vision to be a cultural hub in the City of Markham. We strive to be a leader within the artistic community of our region and act as a gathering place for artistic expression. Our founding mandate is to share and celebrate the life and work of F.H Varley through ongoing research, exhibitions and public programs. We also aim to inspire local and national audiences to engage with contemporary art, which we do by presenting exhibitions and public programs that are relevant to the communities we serve. For more information on the Varley Art Gallery, please visit our website: www.varleygallery.ca


Submission instructions

Submissions for existing or new works will be considered. Proposals should be concise while providing an overview of your practice and visual documentation of your work. Submissions will be accepted in both English and French.

Submissions should include the following:

  1. A cover letter explaining how the submission relates to the theme (250 words maximum)
  2. Up to 10 digital images of recent and relevant work with an accompanying image list detailing titles, dates, medium and dimensions of each work or project; or a link to your web page or other website featuring your work.
  3. A current curriculum vitae listing your complete contact information (first and last name, mailing address, telephone, email address, website) and relevant artistic experience including education, exhibitions, publications, etc.


We accept submissions by mail or by email.

Send submissions by mail to:

Anik Glaude, Curator
Varley Art Gallery of Markham
216 Main Street Unionville
Markham, ON L3R 2H1

Send submissions (up to 2MB only) by email to: submissions@markham.ca

If your email submission exceeds the message size limit, send it via an email transfer program such as www.hightail.com or www.dropbox.com

Please note that although all submissions will be treated with care, the Varley Art Gallery of Markham assumes no responsibility for loss or damage to submission material. Please do not send original artwork.


[1] J. Edwards, Language and Identity. An Introduction, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009

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