This May, the Nanaimo Art Gallery (NAG) officially separated from the art gallery at VIU. The separation came as no surprise, as the NAG has long expressed desire to condense into one location. The art gallery at VIU was the original NAG, created by faculty in the Visual Arts program. As the business expanded, the NAG created a second location downtown on Commercial St. Mixed in with other downtown businesses, the NAG drew more traffic—particularly from tourists. It no longer made sense to have two locations. Despite the separation of the two art galleries, the NAG’s permanent collection will remain at VIU’s gallery.
With the separation, the gallery on campus has 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 when Justin McGrail, art history professor in the department, took over the curatorial and began offering an independent study in curation for his students. The campus gallery was mostly run by NAG staff, though. Now, without the NAG staff, there are more opportunities for students to work at the gallery; there are work-op positions available for gallery workers, and internships available for curatorial positions. 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 step back, but when there are fewer students interested, the faculty will still be available to run the art gallery.
The gallery has also created a new layout for the inside. Previously, the whole building was an art gallery. Now, only the upstairs remains as a gallery. McGrail 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 art students.
VIU’s gallery would like to work on community involvement and engagement.
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 showcases will continue as they were before. Professional shows will also continue, but perhaps at a lesser extent until the gallery is back on Canada Council Grants. 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.
All these new changes are exciting for VIU and the community, but there’s one more change to be made—a new name. If you have an idea for a name for the art gallery on campus, comment on our related Facebook post or email Justin.McGrail@viu.ca.