Union Gallery takes a stand

Campus studio recovers after losing essential student fee

The gallery will launch campaigns in favour of the fee.
The gallery will launch campaigns in favour of the fee.

The Union Gallery has launched an awareness campaign and created validation reports to regain their student fee.

The fee loss came into effect this school year after being cut in the Nov. 2012 AMS referendum by a margin of 28 votes. For the last 18 years, the Gallery received a mandatory fee to support operations, and this year the Gallery’s board decided to pursue the fee again, but in the opt-out category.

The proposal was re-established last month under advisement of the AMS executive, and they were successful in gathering 800 signatures, which led to the submission of a validation report to the chief returning officer.

The Gallery gained approval through AMS Assembly earlier this year, and are now in the midst of campaigning for the referendum vote on Nov. 11-12 of this year.

When the Gallery requested support to bring their last fee question to Assembly’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March, it was ultimately unsuccessful. After this, the gallery posed a peaceful protest as a way to appeal the Assembly’s decision, which took place outside the AGM.

The protest was well-attended and received support from both students and community artists.

Following the protest, the gallery was able to launch an awareness campaign in the form of letters to a variety of stakeholders within the community and alumni in order to rally support for the circumstances surrounding the Gallery.

As a result of the fee loss, the gallery had to shift from being open five days a week to three, and stall plans for future programs — such as ‘Visual Bites in Context’, in which students from other disciplines would be invited to speak about their research alongside the artists in the exhibits — that were going to be implemented had the fee been reinstated.

Jocelyn Purdie, the Gallery’s director, said the transition has been difficult.

“As a public gallery we want to provide our audiences, both on and off campus, with access to our programs and activities,” she told the Journal via e-mail.

“When hours are reduced people get upset and don’t understand all the reasons why this has happened.”

When reducing hours and staff capacity, the gallery has to be careful about not compromising the quality of the program, which is difficult with reduced resources, she said.

She said it’s a challenge because while they’re operating at reduced capacity, the expectations of students, visitors and funders remain the same as when the Gallery operated at their previous levels.

The budget cut has primarily affected the student population that visit the gallery, student artists and other artists that contribute their work in exhibits, she added.

This year, the gallery has continued with reduced operations and programming, including displays, exhibits and mentorship programs.

These reductions have negatively affected the student populations who visit the gallery to see the work and participate in events because there are now fewer activities and shows.

“Student artists and others who exhibit or volunteer on the Gallery Board, and various committees, are affected because there are fewer opportunities for them to gain the hands-on learning experience that the Gallery values,” Purdie said. Despite the issues that have arisen from the fee cut, the gallery hopes to re-evaluate the circumstances and make the best of the situation by planning for a more economically feasible future.

“The student fee is a crucial part of this, but the nature of student fee funding, which does need to be reviewed and voted on tri-annually, means we need to look at other possible avenues for support,” Purdie said. “There hasn’t been any significant change to our funding situation this year.” The Gallery has a regimented plan for what it’s going to provide for students this year, and if the fee is reinstated, it’ll allow the Gallery board to implement these plans comprehensively.

If the fee is reinstated, the Gallery should be able to return to regular hours and continue to develop the programs that they already have in place. They’ll also reinstate other programs that have been on hold due to funding constraints, including mentoring, work study positions and internships.

The Gallery is currently undergoing a review process, which involves a combination of focus group sessions with graduate and undergraduate students, community and faculty supporters and a cross-campus survey for input on the gallery’s situation.

The AMS and SGPS will circulate information around campus and the review project team will issue a survey within the next few months. The gallery will receive the results at the end of April.

They also plan to develop a strategic plan to see if there are ways to better engage with students on campus more broadly, Purdie said.

They’ve also increased their social media plan to give the gallery more of a presence within the student population.

Even though the fee cut has caused numerous issues, the director and Gallery board remain hopeful of regaining the fee.

“I’m hopeful that with our increased efforts, students will come to see the value of supporting the arts and their fellow students through the referendum vote,” Purdie said. “Because they play a vital role in the cultural landscape of any university.

“I’d like to see the gallery become a place where more people can feel comfortable visiting and participating, and where students from across campus come to the gallery to enjoy, learn and experience exciting, high quality art work and other programs that engage the imagination and sparks creative inquiry,” she added.

The Gallery has received support from the AMS executive thus far, she said, who has guided student Board members through the referendum process.

“The funds would allow the gallery to continue to collaborate with other groups at Queen’s and in the Kingston community to hold events for Queen’s audiences,” Purdie said. “These activities of student art shows, experiential learning and job opportunities, and outreach all require the support of a student fee in order to continue to be offered by the gallery.”


Art, Campus

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