USCD's Art Gallery Remains Open (For Now)
The 50-year-old gallery gets a new lease on life. But for how long?
UPDATE: 7:45 a.m., June 3, 2016
MR Barnadas and Tae Hwang of Collective Magpie invited UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla to join them at the University Art Gallery Thursday to celebrate that the gallery would not be closing its doors. The chancellor declined the invitation in an email stating that he had a prior commitment. Collective Magpie displayed a giant thank you card they had made for the chancellor, as well as additional gifts highlighting the art that has been exhibited in the venue.
Although the wording of the campus notice was vague, Hwang took it as a victory for those advocating for the gallery: "I think the letter does state that it will stay open. I think the spirit of the letter says, for sure. Everybody is really happy, everybody is just really thrilled that this is going to be kept open."
Joel Goldsmith, who took part in one of the actions Thursday night, said, "When you do activism you get so used to being pessimistic because how often do you ever get to be a part of any activism that is successful? But we actually got to make a tangible difference. It’s a big victory we get to keep our gallery but in keeping our gallery we are maintaining a status quo. It’s one thing to keep the gallery space a gallery space, it’s another to have installations in there and keep it open and keep it staffed and that nitty gritty piece we’ll still have to see about."
When the chancellor was contacted for a comment UCSD Director of Communications Cynthia Dillon said in an email that "leadership is not doing interviews at this time."
When asked if they knew what exactly not closing the gallery meant, Collective Magpie said they honestly did not know. Since the full-time gallery staff was let go last year, students, alumni, and some faculty have been taking turns watching over the gallery. So it remains to be seen what being open without full-time staff or adequate funding will mean for the University Art Gallery.
UC San Diego’s 50-year-old University Art Gallery was scheduled to permanently close Thursday night. But it appears protests have prompted campus administration to reconsider.
A notice released Thursday from the office of the executive vice chancellor-academic affairs and the office of the dean-division of arts and humanities says:
"We acknowledge these concerns and consequently, with the support of Chancellor Khosla, have removed the UAG from consideration for redevelopment at this time. We remain open to considering a viable proposal for the revitalization of the UAG. Additionally, we have directed our planners to review our portfolio of existing capital projects to determine what opportunities may exist to create alternative new and vibrant replacement spaces across the campus."
Call for action
"We just responded to this horrible news by asking people, the community, students, to come and contribute an action or gesture in response to this so we opened up the gallery," said Tae Hwang, who's half of a duo that calls itself Collective Magpie.
"The reason for closure is articulated in the letter that was sent (by UCSD administration) on the 20th (of May) after we did the action of spray painting the X and putting the banner of the about page announcing publicly to the campus that it was closing," said MR Barnadas, the other half of Collective Magpie.
"And then the official letter of closure was produced the day after, and the reason described and outlines that you can see annotated on the Facebook page associated with UAG disposed, this is for classroom space," Barnadas said.
Protests generate a response
Their efforts seem to have prompted the chancellor to change his mind about closing the gallery, at least for the moment. The statement issued was worded vaguely enough that the gallery could be on the table for closure if there are emergency classroom needs. The statement makes no long-term guarantee about the University Art Gallery's future.
"The University Art Gallery was founded in 1966 and was to serve as the primary interdisciplinary research and experimental platform for visual arts on campus," Barnadas said. "So it was dedicated to showing new and diverse forms of artistic practice, and what that means (is) it contributed to the cultural life of San Diego, as well as the greater artistic community, through pioneering art exhibitions, collaborative projects, innovative public programs and publications. So the UAG would bring artists who had international note to campus for free programming."
Barnadas said if UAG does close, UC San Diego would be the only university without an art gallery.
"It’s just such a basic interface for the community, both the on-campus and surrounding community," she said.
Barnadas said actions planned at the gallery for Thursday evening will be a celebration instead. She invited the chancellor to join them and accept a thank you gift. She has received no confirmation that he will stop by.