Meet our alumni

Joan Caplan

Diploma   Painting  

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Image courtesy of Joan Caplan




What year did you graduate from the Alberta College of Art?

I graduated from the painting/philosophy! department in 1991.

How has what you do now been informed by your past artistic projects and endevours?

In the early 1990’s Mary Lou Riordon and I created nine site specific installations in Calgary, some planned to last less than a day. We therefore documented each one very thoroughly. I decided to create an archival website using all our materials from the installation work, which set me on a path to digitize and organize everything we had documented over the years. What a wealth of photographs, background material, and amazing writings from each of our projects.

Website designer, NCP consulting Services set me up in my home to do the rest. Our websiteaddress is

A synchronicity, a very significant synchronicity, showed itself as the website was completed. Now, 28 years later, we stand energetically with the ME TOO and TIME’S UP MOVEMENT. 


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The Chant, A Public Response and Protest at Alberta College of Art

Calgary AB, February 8, 1990. Images courtesy


A lot of graduates use the ACAD degree as a creative stepping stone. How has what you do evolved since graduation? How did your education at ACAD direct your career?

While students, we formed collaborations with other students and together our voices became strong projects using The Mall at the Alberta College of Art as the venue. The first was ‘The Chant’, a public protest which  developed spontaneously  while a few of us were meeting in the school to plan some readings. Marilyn Love came into our meeting to tell us about a violent assault that had happened  in the streets the night before, only blocks away from where we sat. Our protest in The Alberta College of Art Mall was two days later. A few months after that, Mary Lou Riordon organized ‘A Woman’s Life’ with the help of a few of us including Susan Harrison, Karen McLaughlin, Susanne Sarioglu, Lorrie Wager, and Dianna Zasadney. About 50 artists took part in that exhibition, also in The Mall.

Following graduation, Mary Lou Riordon and I continued to collaborate together. We were involved in the larger art community, attending openings and supporting fellow artists, and supporting other feminist communities and activities. Mary Lou took that further within many organizations where she was active. I was on the board of the New Gallery and on their Programming Committee. All these activities connect directly to our huge city-wide projects: ‘feminist spin’ in March 1994 and ‘Art in the March’ in 1993.

We developed one large project each year involving many other collaborators, beginning with ‘Current Connection on the Elbow River’ and ‘Current Connection at the Deanne House’, working with senior women, adding their stories to Calgary’s history.


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Current Connection at the Deanne House, Historic site-specific installation, with detail shots

February 6-28, 1992. Images courtesy Joan Caplan.


What insights did your time at ACAD give you? Why or how is what you learned at ACAD important?

My time at the Alberta College of Art was transformative. At home I was part of a fairly traditional family, wife and mom of three teenagers. When my eldest turned sixteen and could drive her younger brothers to where they needed to go, a space from my responsibilities opened up for me, so I took a leap into Alberta College of Art.

A couple of vivid moments from those years still come to mind thirty years later. While in class in the painting department, in a simple conversation in front of a group, Mary Scott used the word ‘patriarchy’! I was taken aback!

The Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6th, 1989. Along with the rest of the country, I felt the shocking clarity and long lasting pain from the giant stab of misogyny. I found no way for me to respond until a month later when I could focus my protest within the local community in ‘The Chant’.

I became a political activist and a feminist. It became part of my being then and I am still active today.


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Images from Current Connection on the Elbow River at the Fort Calgary Festival
September 15, 1991. Images courtesy of


What was your time at ACAD like? How did the community at the college (peers, colleagues, faculty) influence your experience?

I felt a good connection with all the students who began together on day one, and along with the many ways we supported each other, our movement forward gave us incentive to graduate together.

I am so grateful to the faculty, their generosity, offering up their own differing views. What a well rounded overview and education we received during the many semesters with new instructors, and especially from those I kept going back to.

We were so fortunate that quite a few on the faculty wrote about the collaborative work we were doing. Rob Milthorp came to Nose Hill where Mary Lou and I explored ‘Interloop/Wind as Weft’ and he wrote about it in Artichoke magazine, a magazine edited by David Garneau that did a great job covering what was happening in the art community during that time. Amy Gogarty also used Artichoke magazine when she wrote about ‘Art in the March’, titled ‘ART IN THE MARCH: Celebrating our different Voices’.

Mireille Perron’s ‘Common Threads: Local Strategies for “Inappropriated” Artists’, was published in the book MATERIAL matters: The Art and Culture of Contemporary Textiles, edited by Ingrid Bachmann and Ruth Scheuing, YYZBOOKS 1998.  Mireille referred to the two installations we did called ‘Current Connection on the Elbow River” and ‘Current Connection at the Deanne House’. When I talked with Mireille recently asking for her permission to include her writing on our website, she said “… I agree the text and the Installation are still good friends after all these years”.

Other writers include Anne Severson, Caterina Pizanias from University of Calgary, Annette Hurtig from the Glenbow Museum, and Dr. Anne E Calvert and Katherine Ylitalo from the Nickel Arts Museum.

What an Art Community we had in Calgary! We are so grateful to have these wonderful essays on our website adding depth and extending meaning. We immensely value all the amazing people we collaborated with along the way.


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Collaborative site-specific installation on Nose Hill by Joan Caplan and Mary Lou Riordon,

Interloop/Wind as Weft, October 9, 1990. Image courtesy Joan Caplan