The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery is on the move – but don't break out the packing crates just yet. The move is not physical but rather administrative as the gallery, once administered by the Faculty of Fine Arts, now reports to Andy Hakin and the Office of the Vice-President (Academic).
"The reason for it and the big difference is that it is the University's art gallery," says Art Gallery Director/Curator Josephine Mills. "Being located administratively in a faculty, it was too regional and made it too difficult to do the things we do well, which are interdisciplinary projects and bringing faculties together."
The gallery is already a viable part of campus life, something Mills has played a big part in establishing. She also gives credit to a University administration that has shown support at every turn.
"We have a really great situation at the University of Lethbridge because people do know about our gallery better than most university art galleries, but there's still room for improvement and this change will allow us to do a lot of things to make that happen," she says.
"I've always felt our administration sees the gallery as a very valued unit. Some institutions just don't have that support."
Galleries often struggle with perception issues, that they are simply a housing area for collections. The U of L Art Gallery has taken great strides to break out of that mold with a much more interactive approach.
"We've really changed how we're operating and become a fully operational art gallery as opposed to a collection with an art gallery attached to it," says Mills.
"I'd like to see that continue with an increased awareness for faculty, students and staff across the whole University that we're a place to not just come to, but to come work with us as we set up more interdisciplinary projects in the future."
From Hakin's perspective, the move just makes sense.
"The gallery will still obviously have very close ties to the Faculty of Fine Arts by the nature of the work they do, but this gives it a chance to grow and really reach out to the rest of the University," says Hakin. "This is the U of L's gallery, and if we can expose more of our campus to the innovative and provocative programming they provide, then we've added a rich resource to the campus experience."
Mills revels in the campus atmosphere and through projects such as Culture Vulture Saturdays, work with the First Nations Transition Program (FNTP) and aboriginal artists, family in residence events, first-year student programs, the popular art + people = x display and the recent Tor Lukasik-Foss event in the Atrium, she endeavours to connect as many people as possible to the gallery and to each other.
"I really want the art gallery to do the kinds of things that bring people together on campus and give them an opportunity to either just meet and talk in an informal way or engage in ideas that can be seen from a number of perspectives," says Mills.
"The Ladies Sasquatch exhibition in the fall is a great example. It was obviously a very innovative art project but also had a great deal of interest for women's studies courses and the women's centre. I want to see more events just like that."