Next week, young artists will converge from all across Canada to showcase their winning pieces from the 2017 BMO 1st Art! competition at University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

“It gave me confidence and made me think that being an artist was something I could actually succeed at,” says Jessica Peterson, the recipient of the BMO 1st Art! Regional Winner for Ontario. Jessica recently graduated from the Fine Arts program at Queen’s University and describes the win (which includes $7500 from BMO) as an honour and incredibly validating. “It makes me want to apply to more shows, get more artwork made, and keep going in this direction.”

For many young artists, the idea of making money from their art is perhaps as abstract as the paintings themselves, so having a major corporation like BMO invest in their talents is momentous for not only their professional livelihood but also their own self worth. “We’re all expecting it to be a while before we get noticed,” says Jessica. “It’s a really big deal to be in a big show like this so soon after graduation. It’s really rare; I’m really lucky.”

Luck may be part of the equation, but determination, creativity, skill and talent also reign. When asked what she’s most looking forward to at next week’s opening reception, Jessica exclaimed how excited she is to meet all the other artists selected. “[BMO is] able to fly in artists from Nunavut, PEI…all over! They have resources that a local gallery wouldn’t, and I think they’re using them for a really great cause.” 

Jessica’s work, along with national winner Xiao Xue of University of Victoria (who received $15,000 for her win) and eleven other regional winners’ works will be showcased from November 16 to December 16 at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. We can’t think of a better way to get a taste of Canada’s next generation of notable artists.