Strolling through upper Place Riel isn’t exactly the most inspiring experience for students — at least until recently.
A modest wooden gallery featuring the textural acrylic paintings of BFA student Katie Campbell hangs tucked under a metal staircase near the ATMs in upper Place Riel. The gallery itself has been set up since December, but only within recent weeks has student artwork been featured.
According to University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union president Jared Brown, the Place Riel gallery is the first step in the right direction for the building.
While running for USSU executive last spring, Brown campaigned on a promise to showcase student artwork in Place Riel. He wanted to give artists the chance to make the utilitarian space cozier.
The planning, design and final placement of the installment took over 6 months — a surprisingly lengthy time given the size of the gallery.
Brown was initially “hoping to make it larger,” but unfortunately the walls in Place Riel weren’t as conducive to hanging art as he had hoped. In addition to actually crafting the gallery, organizing a system for student submissions required the involvement of multiple parties.
“We worked with Marcus Miller, the curator of Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, as well as the Visual Arts Students’ Union. It seemed proper to have both parties involved in the project,” Brown said.
For Brown, featuring the work of university students — and only that of students — is imperative.
Undergrads can submit their paintings, drawings, photography or any artistic media that fits within the physical dimensions of the casing. Each of the submissions will be hand-picked by the USSU president and members of VASU, and then exhibited for two months. A biography and artist’s statement will accompany the work in the lit-up, oak casing.
Although the space limits those who work with large media and sculptors, the petite gallery will benefit others who don’t have enough pieces for a full showing. Additionally, those who haven’t had the chance to display their work in a formal setting may see the gallery as less intimidating while still being a noteworthy achievement.
The gallery “gives up-and-coming artists the opportunity to publicly display their work in a well-visited space,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter what year or college the artist is in, but they must be a student at the U of S.”
The current pieces featured in the Place Riel gallery are a testament to the importance of displaying art of all sizes. Campbell’s paintings, each merely seven inches long, are thoughtful, socially conscious statements that incite self-reflection and critical thought. Her paintings, which depict violence against impoverished women, are deliberately small so they must be examined on an intimate level.
According to Brown, the decision to feature Campbell’s work was “unanimous.”
“In my perfect world, there would be more student work on display,” Brown said. “Art is a wonderful thing, but the funds for this project weren’t even in the triple digits.”
Despite this lack of funding, Brown believes such projects are worthwhile endeavors for the university.
Although Brown realizes the university’s current financial situation doesn’t allow for expansive projects in the fine arts, he hopes the next USSU president will continue to create spaces across campus for student media.
“I may not have the aesthetic senses of a professional artist, but I think that most students genuinely appreciate art, regardless of their own abilities,” Brown said.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf