Marta Chudolinska is our Learning Zone Librarian. We spoke with her about what she does in the Learning Zone and her own artistic practice.
Can you explain your role in the library?
I’m the Learning Zone Librarian, which means I am responsible for all the projects, programs, collections and staff in the Library’s Learning Zone. My job is to work with my staff and to collaborate with other departments, students and faculty to create learning and training opportunities for members of our community. That’s a very general summary of my job. In practice, it means I organize workshops, exhibitions and other events that support curriculum and student’s extra-curricular learning needs. I work with my staff to catalogue and promote zines in the OCAD Zine Library. I do my best to support student groups in the work that they do to create community engagement on campus. I am directly involved with the OCAD Zine Collective and grOCAD student groups in a mentorship role, though I often learn as much from the students as they learn from me. With the help of the many wonderful students who work for me in the Learning Zone, and other students who are regular users of the space, I do my best to maintain an awareness of the current issues or struggles that students at OCAD U are facing, and try to develop programming or collections that address these issues, often in collaboration with other departments. An example of this is the Reuse Depot project. The project started as the Material Trading Post in one of Bonnie Devine’s INVC courses, then was developed into an event through a collaboration between Melissa General and Jennie Suddick. I had the idea for an art supply swap in the Learning Zone, did a bit of research to see if anyone else was already doing this on campus and eventually worked with those two great folks on a larger collaboration, which later also included staff from AV loans and Facilities. We heard from the students that a permanent place for donating or trading art supplies would be valuable and since the Learning Zone had space to offer, the Reuse Depot was born. Some may see it as a non-traditional library project, but to me it is a living collection of resources that meet the learning needs of our students, just like the books and other materials in the library collection.
You studied at OCAD for your undergrad (drawing & painting and printmaking) and have been an employee for many years. How does your work in the Learning Zone fit into your professional artistic practice?
While it’s sometimes a struggle to maintain both my library work and my art practice without burning out, both of my careers really support and inspire each other. I’ve always been excited by the creative potential in community spaces, both as an artist and a library professional. My work in the Learning Zone allows me to engage with artists and designers who are starting out in their career, and their passion and excitement for their work is really inspiring. I am able to use a lot of my creative skills in promotional work, workshops and exhibition design. I think a lot about what I wish I knew or had the opportunity to do as an art student, which inspires new ideas for improving the space. My work in the Learning Zone has allowed me to develop various skills that are helpful to me as an artist, including leadership, instruction, budgeting and time management.
Babcia comic by Marta Chudolinska for Broken Pencil magazine
photo by Heather Evelyn
You're sessional and will be off for the summer at the end of May. What are your plans for this summer?
I have been producing a papercut comic called Babcia (Polish for ‘Grandmother’) for Broken Pencil magazine for the past 6 years. My grandmother helped raise me in Poland when I was little, then later developed Alzheimer’s and passed away after my immediate family had immigrated to Canada. The project is an attempt to get an adult understanding of who she was as a person through engaging with Polish history, family stories and my childhood memories. I am working towards making this project into a full-length graphic novel, so this summer I’ll continue working on the manuscript. I’ve also been invited to contribute a short comic story to an anthology, so I’ll be working to complete that over the summer months. Outside of work time, I’m looking forward to growing tasty things in my vegetable garden and going on hikes and other nature adventures.
What are your favourite items in the library collection? Zine collection?
I really love both our library collection and the zine collection, so it’s really hard to choose favourites. I love finding technical books in the library whenever I want to learn a new skill or improve an old one, such as embroidery, bookbinding or printmaking. I am currently reading the Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Embroidery, which has really excellent diagrams and so many stitches and variations of stitches to learn. My favourite bookbinding book in the collection is Books, Boxes and Portfolios, so much so that I bought it for my own collection. Another book that I come back to many times is Keywords by Raymond Williams. It’s a handbook of terms significant to art and culture, and explains how those words have developed and changed over time. It’s a really nerdy deep cut, but so fascinating in terms of how ideas and language change over time. The Library’s graphic novel collection is so vast and rich, I’m not even going to try to choose a favourite.
Choosing a favourite zine in the zine library is also incredibly difficult, so I will restrain myself to two: Asscat because it reveals how silly and surreal zines can be while still operating with a sound internal logic and the “indige-zine” series, a recent purchase for the collection, which collects various types of writing and art by Indigenous peoples on a particular topic (such as healing or love), because it brings together a large range of voices and perspectives in a beautifully produced publication.
What is something you'd like people to know about the Learning Zone?
The Learning Zone belongs to you! I hope all students, faculty and staff feel welcome in the space and welcome to participate or contribute to the space as they would like, by organizing an event or exhibition in the space or suggesting ways that the space could be improved for the benefit of its users.