The little gallery that could

Award-winning Carleton art gallery curator Sandra Dyck is now planning a community art show. (Susan Hickman Photo)

Carleton University’s Art Gallery (CUAG), located at the northern edge of the campus in the St. Patrick’s Building, is gaining recognition in the wider community. In the wake of pocketing three coveted awards at the 33rd Legendary Ontario Association of Art Gallery Awards (OAAG) ceremony Sept. 24, CUAG is preparing for its second biennial community art show the first week of November.

The show, called HERE: The Second Carleton Community Biennial, will feature works of art by Carleton students, staff, faculty, alumni and retirees. It officially opens at noon on Nov. 1 and will run until Nov. 7.

“We’re hoping to achieve the success we had with the first biennial in 2008,” says gallery curator Sandra Dyck. “This year, we are open to alumni and retirees for the first time. The show gives people the opportunity to show their work in a professional gallery and allows us to celebrate the creativity that exists on campus.”

The 2008 exhibition, curated by a Carleton art history graduate who later wrote a how-to manual on setting up an exhibition, displayed 254 sculptures, paintings, photographs, prints and drawings by 110 Carleton students, staff and faculty. The feedback, says Dyck, was “amazingly positive.”

That first show was an experiment, Dyck explains. “This time, we hope to reach even more people.”

The 450-square-metre gallery, designed by architect Michael Lundholm, opened in 1992 to house the university’s art collection, which has since become one of the largest university collections in Canada. While the gallery acquired a significant body of contemporary Canadian works of art, since its opening, more than 275 exhibitions have been curated by gallery staff and invited curators.

Meanwhile, at the OAAG awards, the gallery won a curatorial writing award (for Dyck’s essay, Michèle Provost: Selling Out), an art publication of the year award (Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection) and a design award (to Kelsey Blackwell for her Reverse Engineered catalogue).

“These awards are so important,” says Dyck, who also won a writing award for an essay in 2009. “We are working on a very high level with the best of what’s being done in the province.”

OAAG’s director, Demetra Christakos, singled out CUAG at the award ceremony in September. “The story of the OAAG awards this year is the Carleton University Art Gallery,” she said. “When we opened their nomination package, we were very impressed by their seven gorgeous publications.”

In fact, CUAG’s publications are what allow the gallery to transcend its location on the lowest floors of one of the campus’s academic buildings, says CUAG director Diana Nemiroff.

“We have a lot of challenges. Our publications allow us to reach a much broader audience across the country and, on occasion, internationally, and we have extremely high standards.”

The gallery emphasizes winning design and critical writing that is accessible to the educated reader in general. Catalogues, explains Nemiroff, play an important role for artists.

“Our mission,” says the director, “is dedicated to scholarship and research and information about the visual artists. This is how we communicate how important these artists are to Canadian life.”

Interested artists can learn about showing their work in the biennial by consulting the gallery’s website at:

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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