Monday, August 23, 2010

Collegial Criticism, White-Cube Whine? Both!

This weekend, the Toronto Star "New in Homes and Condos" section (a must read for any self-respecting critic!) noted that OCAD has been promised 8,000 square feet of new, ground level gallery space in a forthcoming downtown condo project.

Now, while I'm all for increasing Toronto gallery space, especially for students, I have to say this news touched on a point that's peeved me for some time: OCAD's rather poor use of its existing gallery space. In particular, its designated "student gallery" at 285 Dundas Street West seems catatonic for an institution of OCAD's size and activity, hosting just seven exhibitions per year. The OCAD Graduate Gallery at 205 Richmond seems like a similarly sleepy cipher--it doesn't even have a webpage on the school's site, let alone its own website.

To be fair, I'm aware the school also has a couple of more active gallery spaces, like the recently rebranded (if also somewhat slow-moving) Onsite [at] OCAD, which often focuses on international professional artists, and the student-union funded Xpace, which seems to be the school's best-used venue, if its most distant (located on the trendy Ossington strip, Xpace has a mandate to "bridge students with their established counterparts through experimental programming that cultivates public dialogue" -- the meaning of which I've never really quite figured out).

These stronger points aside, I don't think OCAD's promised megaspace at Richmond and Duncan will be of any use unless the school can get its collective act together and get students (or truly student-focused curators) actually putting new shows up every week or two.

I welcome anyone to call "golden light of nostalgia" on this little diatribe, but a one-to-two week turnover is the basis of the student gallery program at my alma mater of NSCAD, and I think it benefits both individual students (in terms of learning how to individually prep a show, meet deadlines, etc.) and the college (in terms of the openings providing a regular social venue and gathering point).

Like I said, it's always great to see new gallery spaces, particularly ones in the name of education. But you have to know how to use the space to get the most educational mileage of out of it, and I don't always see that happening at OCAD--or, for that matter, other downtown Toronto art programs.

Suggested solutions? Related gripes (I'm sure some will take exception to the condo's marketing scheme, including free lithos from OCAD students)? Feel free to post.

Image of Antony Gormley's Blind Light installation at Hayward Gallery via Metapedia


Stanzie Tooth said...

Hi Leah,

Having worked for OCAD's Exhibition Services Dept. for two years while a student there, I am biased on the subject. But- I wanted to point out that there is another (if lesser know) exhibition space at OCAD, 'Transit Space'. This is a gallery on the first floor of the 100 McCaul building and it does serve as a more active exhibition space that changes every 2 weeks and showcases current students' work.

Each exhibition space at OCAD serves a different purpose - The OCAD Student Gallery is meant for more curated and long term exhibits and Transit Space serves as an ever-shifting space for students to display developing work and to have the experience of organizing their first group show with their peers.

I do agree that Exhibition Services could use their own website linked off of the main page of the OCAD website. But, at the same time, I think that the dedicated staff of Ex. Ser. do their best to create a variety of exhibition experiences for the OCAD community with limited means.


Leah Sandals said...

Hey Stanzie,

Thanks for a behind-the-scenes (or at least former behind-the-scenes) perspective.

Transit Space gallery sounds great, but from my (limited) experience it's basically a hallway, right? This falls into a "better than nothing but still could do better" category from my perspective.

That said, I did go easy here on other Toronto art-ed institutions. I'm not even really aware of a student gallery for U of T or Ryerson or even York U, so it's clear OCAD may be at the forefront locally in at least designating some student gallery spaces.

Nevertheless (and I know this is just a pedagogical complaint rather than a wider art-world one) I think the overall feeling I get from OCAD sometimes is that it's more interested in accumulating resources (technology, money, spaces) than in putting them to effective use. Again, that said, at least it's not rumored to be in dangerous debt, like (ahem) NSCAD.

So... all's I'm saying is it seems appropriate for art ed and its students that the twain should meet here: good spaces and the good sense on how to use them!