Union Gallery out in the cold

Split student vote of 49.6 and 50.4 per cent leaves the Gallery without their fee

Union Gallery has been open for 18 years and has never lost their student fee. The last time their fee went to referendum was in 2010.
Union Gallery has been open for 18 years and has never lost their student fee. The last time their fee went to referendum was in 2010.
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Union Gallery is going to look a lot different this year than it has in the past.

The Gallery lost its mandatory fee renewal in the Fall Referendum on Oct. 24 with a margin of 28 student votes. The referendum statement asking voters if they agreed to the continuation of the three-year mandatory fee of $3.71. It was voted in favour by 49.6 per cent of students and against by 50.4 per cent.

Union Gallery director Jocelyn Purdie said she was “pretty devastated” when she heard the Gallery had lost their student fee by such a small margin.

“It’s unfortunate that when things are so close like that, there isn’t any kind of recourse available for groups,” she said.

An email was sent to all the groups involved in the referendum at 4 p.m. on Oct. 25 informing them of the results. Purdie said that’s when the Union Gallery group first heard about the results.

The fee loss will come into effect in the 2013-14 school year, marking the first time in 18 years the free Gallery would be without a mandatory fee.

The Gallery, which has free entry, has always been located in Stauffer Library — directly accessible to students.

“We’re been operating successfully for those 18 years and it was such a huge blow when all of a sudden, we’re basically all out of funds,” Purdie said.

The student fee was responsible for approximately half of Union Gallery’s funding, Purdie said, adding that the Gallery is now at a loss for how to move forward.

“We’re definitely going to have to reduce our hours and our staffing — there’ll be less service essentially.”

Union Gallery is the only gallery in Kingston that showcases both professional artwork and student artwork. The Gallery has professional artwork for the summer and first two months of the school year, and student artwork for the rest.

“We’re obliged to pay the professionals, and there’s also trying to get them to Kingston for an artist talk and get the artwork here and mounted, among other costs associated with the shows. So we may not be able to continue doing that,” Purdie said.

The Gallery will still be able to help students by putting on their shows, although Purdie said the number of student shows will be reduced.

“The plan is to keep our space open with student shows because we don’t pay them professional fees, but a lot of the extra stuff we do, like the mentorship programs and off-site projects, may not be able to go on.”

Purdie said she felt there was a lack of visibility for students about the referendum in the days leading up to the vote.

“We have this referendum, but there’s no way to actually find out what the groups do. It’s just us putting up a banner and people can’t ask us questions,” she said. “The concern for us was that there was no forum for us to tell students where their support is going and why it’s crucial.”

The last time the Gallery had a change to its student fee was in 2010 when they petitioned the General Assembly and had it increased.

Purdie said the fee can’t go to referendum again in the winter or to General Assembly next term, according to policy.

“All we can do is wait and try again.”

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