Student artwork shut out

Popular downtown Kingston art gallery Modern Fuel will no longer be exhibiting student work on its walls

Artistic Director of Modern Fuel Michael Davidge says they stopped accepting student submissions to adhere with funders’ guidelines.
Artistic Director of Modern Fuel Michael Davidge says they stopped accepting student submissions to adhere with funders’ guidelines.
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While Modern Fuel will no longer exhibit student work, Union Gallery still relies on student artwork for most of their programming.
While Modern Fuel will no longer exhibit student work, Union Gallery still relies on student artwork for most of their programming.
Photo: 

While it’s always been the gallery’s policy to restrict programming to professional artists, only in early June was a provision regarding student eligibility added to the submission guidelines posted on Modern Fuel’s website.

The policy states explicitly, “Undergraduate students enrolled in a fine arts program at a school, college or university are not eligible to apply.” Graduate students, however, are still allowed to show their work at the popular downtown gallery.

Modern Fuel Artistic Director Michael Davidge said the decision was made in an attempt to adhere more strictly to the gallery’s policies that were already in place.

“We want to make it known that it’s our priority to support professional artists, and so we don’t want there to be a misperception that that’s not the priority,” he said.

Davidge added that this sudden change in adherence to the gallery’s policy comes after another change was made at Modern Fuel.

“In the State of Flux Gallery, we have begun paying a professional fee. In the past, it was an experimental, non-juried space that was for members and also students’ work,” he said.

That change was made in late 2011, Davidge said.

“We’ve opened it up so it’s no longer a members-only space, and it’s meant to support artists in the region of Kingston,” he said.

“It’s really just one of the means that we use to provide more opportunities to local and regional artists here at our gallery, to pay them.”

Even though it has always been in Modern Fuel’s guidelines to not accept student work into the gallery’s art exhibits, artwork by two Queen’s Fine Arts students was featured in Modern Fuel’s Juried Members’ Exhibition in August 2011 — an annual curated art competition held at the gallery.

Davidge was unsure about the exact number of times that students have shown work at the gallery in the past.

Davidge explained that in the past, Modern Fuel made selections based on the quality of the work.

“It’s hard to restrict submissions — we want to be as open and accessible as possible and supportive of emerging artists, so it’s difficult to be restrictive,” he said.

Davidge added that these new changes to Modern Fuel are part of the “professionalization” of the gallery.

The decision to cut out student art from the gallery is also a result of the gallery’s desire to now be in line with the people who fund it, Davidge said.

“To be in keeping with the policies that are set by the funding bodies that we receive money from.” Since Modern Fuel is an artist-run gallery, it gets funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Kingston Arts Fund — all three major levels of government.

According to the Ontario Arts Council website, in order to apply for a grant, one must “be recognized as a professional, practicing artist by other artists working in the same field.”

It also says, “if you are a student, you are not considered a professional artist yet” but adds that some exceptions apply.

Davidge explained that even though it went against the guidelines of the gallery’s funding bodies like the Ontario Arts Council, the number of students who were allowed to show work was “in the minority.”

“We haven’t been penalized in any way,” he said.

70 per cent of the artwork exhibited at on-campus art gallery Union Gallery, located in Stauffer Library, is student work.

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