by Kelly Whiteside
This past May, the Nanaimo Art Gallery (NAG) officially separated from the art gallery at VIU. With the separation, VIU has chosen to renovate the space and create new goals.
Previously, the whole building was an art gallery. Now, only the upstairs remains as a gallery. Justin McGrail, art history professor and curator, says that condensing the gallery to one floor is actually an improvement—there is never a struggle to fill space, and it’s easier to navigate. Downstairs, there is now a learning commons and media lab for student use. There is also rehearsal space for theatre students, and studio space for arts students.
Moving forward as an independent art gallery no longer attached to the NAG, VIU’s gallery would like to work on community involvement and engagement. Student shows and professional shows will continue as they were before, and despite the separation of the two art galleries, the permanent collection will remain at VIU’s gallery. McGrail would like to reach out more to community groups and organizations in the future, though. He would like to create partnerships with other organizations and host events, as well as feature artwork from local groups such as the Harbour City Photography Club. Renting out the space is another service they would like to offer.
Because of the loss of NAG staff, the gallery on campus has also changed their way of operation. In the past, the curator was chosen from the faculty at VIU, and the position rotated between the staff. This continued until, three years ago, McGrail took over the curatorial and began offering an independent study in curation for his students. Without the NAG staff, there are now more opportunities for students to work at the gallery. The new operation will be a blend of faculty and students. If there are enough students willing to run the business, then the faculty will back off, but when there are fewer students interested the faculty will still be there to run the art gallery.
Keep your eyes peeled for new exhibitions at VIU’s art gallery!