UCSD administrative staff repeatedly refused to confirm or deny whether the University Art Gallery (UAG) will remain open or closed for the 2016-17 academic year. In the last year, UCSD students and faculty have spoken out against the administration’s decision to suspend the Gallery and, although an email from administrative staff confirmed that the space will no longer be considered for redevelopment as a classroom, the future of the gallery is still unsure.
“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,” read the statement, issued by Vice Chancellor Executive Vice Chancellor Suresh Subramani and Dean of the Division of Arts & Humanities Cristina Della Coletta.
The administration’s statement cited concerns over a diminishing arts presence on campus for removing the facility from consideration for redevelopment as a classroom. Students fought the closure and plans for redevelopment in a petition with over 2700 signatures as well as a protest on May 26.
The statement, however, does not clarify what will happen to the space in the future or whether the Gallery will receive any funding for the 2016-17 year.
No funding was allocated to the gallery for the 2015-16 year and the UAG Assistant Director and only full-time employee, Merete Kjaer, was let go earlier in the year.
“You don’t just close a 50-year-old institution because you need classroom space” said Kjaer in an interview with The Triton. “You don’t just close something that has a history and plays a role for the sake of more classrooms. It’s one thing to say you’re not going to close it, but if there’s no funding for staffing and programming, how is it going to run?”
After leaving a message for Vice Chancellor Subramani in an attempt to clarify the statement, The Triton staff were redirected to Director of Communications for the Division of Arts and Humanities, Cynthia Dillon. When asked for confirmation on whether or not the gallery will be remaining open, Dillon repeatedly referred to the emailed statement.
“This is the end of the year. They’re just try[ing] to end things on a neutral note,” said Alana Bock, a graduating Art History major and a UAG volunteer at a UAG event last Thursday. “This is all just a question of money and what we’re valuing on this campus. It’s just this whole thing of shutting down spaces. The craft center, graffiti hall.”
During the ongoing discussion about the gallery last year, Visual Arts Professor Brett Stalbaum told The UCSD Guardian he believed an agreement could be reached between stakeholders. Stalbaum remains hopeful that it is possible to maintain a prominent gallery space on campus.
“I do think we need more serious and professional development efforts to realize the kind of first-class University art gallery that the other UC campuses seem capable of supporting,” said Stalbaum.
“There is no gallery, and that is an embarrassment,” said Stalbaum when asked about the current state of the Gallery.