Artist forges new paths & connections at Modern Fuel

Michele LaRose

By Hollie Pratt-Campbell

Michèle LaRose is living proof that it’s never too late to follow your heart.

In 2002, she left behind a successful, decades-long career in national museums and archives and management consulting to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time painter.

“I had started to paint again on a part-time basis when I had the time, and I realized that I was having a hard time staying focused on my paying job,” says LaRose, noting that she had a childhood interest for making art that never really died. “It just became a more consuming passion, I suppose.”

LaRose paints abstract pieces that are inspired by many different things, especially shapes.

“When I’m walking around I’ll notice a pattern of cracks in the sidewalk, or the way ivy crawls up a wall that I find really beautiful or satisfying. All of those little bits of information go into my brain and when I paint I find that often those shapes just kind of appear, but not in a recognizable way.”

She chooses to work in an abstract medium because it keeps things interesting as she’s creating the piece.

“With abstract, especially the way that I do it, there’s that wonderful surprise of not knowing where a piece is going. So you may start with a general idea…and then it goes off in a direction that’s different. It’s saying add some orange here or some blue there. All of a sudden you realize you’ve been at your easel for hours and you don’t know where the time went.”

But as much as she loved the solitary act of painting, LaRose also yearned to feel part of a community of artists. Enter the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, an organization that assists artists with the presentation, interpretation and production of contemporary visual, time-based and interdisciplinary arts. LaRose has been an active member of Modern Fuel for a number of years, but a recent project called Your Own Grad School set her down a particularly exciting new path.

“I didn’t do a BFA or an MFA like a lot of the artists who show there, so this project was of interest to me,” LaRose explains. “I applied and nine of us were accepted to be a part of this project.”

Your Own Grad School gave artists the opportunity to create their own graduate programs without spending thousands of dollars at a university; they did so by staying focused on a project and achieving the goals they set out for themselves.

While LaRose had a great experience participating in it the program, it was a spin-off, of sorts, that emerged from it that truly sparked her creativity. In June, 2013, she and six other Your Own Grad School participants formed their own group called the Agitated Plover Salon. Members meet once a month to either discuss their art or hold an exhibition of their work in unexpected venues, such as a renovated garage of a vacant duplex and the historic Old City Hall Jail.

“Modern Fuel facilitated this collective in that it ran this project and we decided to build on it,” LaRose says. “So it gave us a stepping stone to move on to something that will be of benefit to us and hopefully others.”

She notes that once Modern Fuel moves into the Tett Centre, it should be even easier for it to assist local artists in this manner.

“Modern Fuel is an incubator for local contemporary artists and offers a whole slough of opportunities to get involved…not to mention exhibitions and meeting other artists from Kingston and across Canada. The new space will give it better accessibility and a more modern and professional space to the visiting public. All good things for an institution that is already over 35 years old.”