Students from Professor Chapdelaine’s Copyright Law class visited the Art Gallery of Windsor this week to take part in an immersive experiential learning activity. The students took in two of the gallery’s currently running exhibitions, supplemented with a guided tour from the AGW’s curator of contemporary art, Jaclyn Meloche.


This is the second year that Professor Chapdelaine’s Copyright Law class has visited the AGW for an experiential learning activity. As well promoting investigative and critical thinking skills, the activity  gives students the chance to step out of the classroom and apply their legal learning in the real-world context of an art gallery. Ultimately, “it is about the value of being surprised”, said Professor Chapdelaine.


As a part of their experiential learning activity, students are expected to prepare a short written piece about their afternoon trip to the gallery in the form of a legal memo or short essay. Students who choose to write a legal memo can begin by identifying a particular copyright issue or issues involved in the day-to-day running of a gallery/museum. Students can then analyze and apply the Copyright Act, international conventions, jurisprudence, secondary sources, and class discussions to formulate  recommendations and best practice suggestions for their legal memo. As well, students have the option to address a specific topic based on an art piece, painting, museum archives, or curating in the form of a legal essay. Examples of such relevant topics include the application of  doctrines regarding authorship and copyrightable subject matter, the application of selected exception(s) to copyright infringement, and the protection of indigenous cultural expressions.


The first exhibition focused on the photographic work of Suzy Lake, a Canadian artist originally born in Detroit. Entitled Performing an Archive, Lake’s exhibition consisted of a collection of over 40 different photographs, maps, and housing development blueprints which served to document the artist’s exploration of social issues relating to ancestry and cultural heritage. The second exhibition, Position As Desired, presented an eclectic variety of photographic works from the personal archive of Windsor-born art collector Kenneth Montague. The exhibition is also widely considered to be the first major work to critically examine the history, heritage, and experiences of African Canadians using the medium of photography.


Throughout the tour of both exhibitions, Ms. Meloche spoke at length with students about how her role as the curator was both influenced and affected by the law. Ms. Meloche explained the legal requirements and procedures used when installing and displaying pieces of art to the public, as well as the process of acquiring art pieces for the gallery. Students also had the opportunity to address specific topics of interest with Ms. Meloche, such as her experiences as a new curator in the Windsor art industry, and her personal experiences with copyright law as both an artist and curator.


Performing an Archive and Position As Desired are both currently on display at the Art Gallery of Windsor until May 7, 2017. Students interested in viewing any of the gallery’s current or upcoming exhibitions can visit the Art Gallery of Windsor’s website at for more information.


Madiha Khan, Student Writer