By Amanda Gabriele
With the captivating view of Walker Court off to the left, and a curious glimpse of the spiral staircase straight ahead, it’s easy to see where the graphic design team gets their inspiration. As you approach the Greenhouse on the third floor of the Chalmers Wing, you can feel the creative juices flowing. Graphic designer Aleks Grzywaczewska (Gji-va-chev-ska) sits among them as a true artist of the arts.
Aleks started at the AGO as an intern in 2000. One week after completing her internship, she was asked back to fill the summer student position in the design department. Aleks’s great work as a student resulted in a full-time position in the AGO’s in-house design studio.
"I have a relationship with each design project," she said, somewhat nostalgic of her artistic achievements. Some of the projects found in her AGO portfolio include Modigliani, Woman as Goddess andProvisional Worlds, which won her a silver Art Directors and Design Association of Canada Award, and a silver in the Applied Arts Annual.
Asking an artist to discuss her influences is like asking a seasoned traveller their favourite place to visit – there is never one answer. In terms of musical influence, Aleks does not discriminate. "I like everything from Gershwin to The Spice Girls to Metallica and Kanye West." She was unable to comment on any particular visual or fine arts artists, simply stating, "I love them all; there are too many to choose from."
Aleks was born in Poland in 1974. Along with her mother and father, she illegally escaped Poland’s Soviet communist rule at the age of seven and headed to Italy. The family lived in central Italy for five months in the city of Latina, where Aleks fell in love with everything that Italy had to offer. "I just ate it all up," she said. Aleks and her parents arrived in Canada in 1982. Not knowing anyone and unable to speak the language, she embarked on a non-stop learning experience, that led to the design artist we know today.
Outside of her role as graphic designer, Aleks advocates for many causes. She supports animal rights through organizations like PeTA and Greenpeace. Her dedication to helping the fight against animal cruelty has also influenced some of her life decisions, including being a long time vegetarian.
Aleks also sits on the board of directors for (WO)MEN SPEAK OUT™, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating rape, sexual assault and gender violence. The organization and its founders are close to her heart, and she is grateful to be able to assist not only with their visual representation but also with decisions that affect the organizations operation.
"The people in my department here at the AGO are fabulous to work with, and that’s what keeps me here," she said in appreciation for the environment the gallery provides. With no intention to move her career elsewhere, it is fair to say that Aleks’s work will remain part of the AGO’s permanent collection.