Universities draw them in

Mount Saint Vincent, Saint Mary's and Dalhousie all have art galleries to connect their students to fine art.

Fine art Schools with no fine arts programs are trying to expose students to art.

The art galleries of Mount Saint Vincent, Saint Mary's and Dalhousie universities operate in post-secondary institutions where fine arts degrees aren't offered. The bulk of funding for programming at each space comes from the Canada Council for the Arts, not the institutions' administrations, which tend to assist with operating funds (staffing and equipment costs). Although students and faculty regularly use the galleries for research, the people who run them are constantly looking for ways to reach further into the university population.

While there are similarities to outreach among the galleries (all three are free, open to anyone and hold annual open-call student, staff, faculty and alumni exhibitions), the current trio of directors take different approaches to connect with wider campus audiences.

"We offer quite a heavily enriched program of group presentations," says Ingrid Jenkner at MSVU Art Gallery. "We tailor them to syllabuses." Prior to each semester, Jenkner meets with faculty to sync up exhibitions to course offerings. Classes in English, Education, Canadian Studies, Women's Studies and Public Relations are scheduled for a tour of the exhibition, Anthem: Perspectives on Home and Native Land, an investigation of Canadian identity and nationhood, which runs to October 5.

Jenkner's "transdisciplinary approach" includes procuring catalogue essays from campus-wide faculty and grad students, but also teaching. She's leading a third-year seminar course in censorship and art as part of the university's Cultural Studies program.

At SMU, campus visitors come to the gallery via special events held there, especially those that link with the school's "very multicultural campus," according to director/curator Robin Metcalfe. He's finalizing plans with Asna Adhami, a student and performer of "spoken word in the Sufi tradition," for a late September or early October event, during the Islamic period of Ramadan.

The gallery receives some programming funding from the administration, though Metcalfe reiterates the majority comes from applying to the Canada Council. Still, along with new flooring and lighting installed in the last couple years at the university's expense, the financial contribution earmarked for actual exhibitions holds symbolic value for Metcalfe---"a material sign of support."

Longer term, he adds, "we're in discussions with the Dean of Arts about tying in with academic programs. A lot depends on personal contact and to have those conversations."

Peter Dykhuis is having those conversations, too. The Dalhousie Art Gallery is partnering with CKDU to present Cabaret Animale Friday, September 2---a night of music and performance with Rad Rat, Laura Peek and i see rowboats. Tickets are free but limited in number.

There are future appointments with the School of Architecture, and Dykhuis is also meeting with Rachelle Owen, director of Dal's newly minted Office of Sustainability, to discuss ways for art to inform and reflect her efforts. "Artists are making things that are socially engaged and ecologically investigative," Dykhuis says.

He sees potential to "insert public art as a presence" on the campus, proposing a public art project, commissioned and curated by the gallery for the new building planned for Coburg and LeMarchant Streets. For now, Dykhuis looks forward to the 20th season of Ron Foley MacDonald's film series at the gallery, now offering 60 new chairs paid for by the university. Fiesta at Five: An Introduction to Latin Americacoincides with the Atlantic Film Festival, running daily at 5pm, from September 12-19. "It really is Halifax's only repertory cinema," Dykhuis says. "What's better for students than free films?"

Dalhousie Art Gallery, 6101 University (Dal Arts Centre), Tuesday-Sunday 11am-5pm. SMU Art Gallery, 5865 Gorsebrook (first floor, Loyola Academic Complex), Tuesday-Sunday noon-5pm. MSVU Art Gallery, 166 Bedford Highway (Seton Academic Centre), Tuesday-Friday 11am-5pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-5pm.

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