This is Suzanne Luke, Curator, Robert Langen Art Gallery and Laurier Library LIFT Series. Since she put together this whole mechanism through which I can exhibit my photos along with Stefan Rose and Stephen Orlando, I thought it might interest you to hear a few words on the vision. You are invited to join us at the Laurier Library for the LIFT launch (whoa, alliteration) on Thursday 7pm, free-no-pay/cash bar where you can hear some of this in brief and in person. RSVP here. If passive reading on the internet is more your thing, well that’s alright with us, too. Read on…
[Updated: 2016-10-18 13:54 for clarity]
DW: How did LIFT come about and why do you think it’s important?
SL: The transition of the [Robert Langen] Gallery into the library happened about a year and a half ago. At the point where I was introduced into this family, the construction of the gallery hadn’t happen yet. It was about to, but in the meantime I really wanted to activate the Library with arts programming. After touring the building I saw these gigantic walls on [floors] 4, 5, 6 and 7 – perfect for exhibiting works of art. The LIFT series uses floor 4-6 and eventually floor 7 will showcase works from the University’s permanent art collection.
The great thing about these walls are their size 25-feet long and the location right off the elevators. When I saw these empty walls, I thought “That’s prime exhibition space.” The majority of the students and visitors to the Library use the elevators, so as you get off the floors you are now greeted with dynamic artwork. That’s how it started. I proposed the idea to Gohar [Ashoughian, University Librarian] and she said “Great, go for it.” The title for the series, plays on the location outside of the elevators [in British parlance] it just came to me one day and I said “Yeah! It’s the LIFT Series” and the series will feature community artists. Since the programming for the [Robert Langen] Art Gallery revolves around more senior and mid-career artists, I wanted a space where we could highlight the talents of our local community. There should be a venue for artists in our community, and that’s exactly what floors 4, 5 and 6 will be.
Showcasing works of art on different floors not only encourages movement within the building and generates conversations between people but also encourages people to take time to discover the different Library collections we have on each floor. I think it’s a really nice way of doing that. For example our last LIFT series Outside IN featured 3 local graffiti artists (Paul MacDonald, Nick Taylor and Kristen Moss) all three created works based around the collections that are housed on the floors there were exhibiting on. This is not a requirement but it poses some interesting creative possibilities.
It’s really important to provide opportunities to people in our community. I think what motivated me was my involvement in BOX [Art Show & sale]. The vision for the art show and sale was about bringing emerging and mid-career artists in our Region together and letting them know “Hey, you are an artist and we value you in our community.” We have many hidden gems in our community, and they just need that encouragement to help them to see themselves as artists.
DW: What do you think happens when you bring the art to the people?
SL: For our students, it gives them an opportunity to see how rich we are in terms of art and culture in our community. By incorporating art into the Library, it stimulates the environment and nourishes the imagination. I also feel it boosts productivity in a sense, because you’re in a creative space. When you see something when you get off the elevator floors, you’re energized and it helps to engage dialogue. Someone might say “Did you see the photograph on floor 5?” Even if they are students who don’t know each other, maybe those two people connect over the artwork. Or it could be faculty members, thinking “This body of work talks about construction in our downtown core. Maybe I should introduce this topic into my course syllabus and visit the artist to lecture to my class. That is actually the structure of RLAG’s exhibition programming. All exhibitions are linked to areas of academic study. So for example, with Eve [Egoyan] and David’s [Rokeby] show, we are connected to Peter Hatch’s composition class. Next Wednesday, Peter’s class will be conducted in the gallery – 50 students will have the pleasure of hearing David Rokeby lecture about his work, music and the piece/software featured in the show.
I think sometimes we get so focused on daily life, so to have an art encounter in an unexpected way helps to generate inspiration and think in a new way.
DW: It is interesting that the LIFT Series and, more broadly, incorporating the arts into the library has created an opportunity for the community to connect with an art show, with the library and with the university. You’ve given them a reason.
SL: Yes, exactly. I think that’s Gohar’s vision, too. As much as a library is the heart of a university, she also wants it to be the heart of the community within which it lies. I think anything that generates a cross-disciplinary gathering is a good thing. Who knows who will come to your opening? There will be artists attending, people from the tech sector, engineers from Stephen’s world etc. Really it’s just about creating opportunities to bring people together.
DW: What would you ask of the community?
SL: I want to hear what inspires you – what do you find engaging? I love what I do, but sometimes I wonder “Am I programming just around my own aesthetic sensibility?” When I first started at the University I was very focused on what I liked and what I wanted to present and show. But soon realized as a University based gallery I do have a responsibility to expose our community to as many disciplines, techniques and methods as possible. I may not have the same attraction to the work , but there will be others who do.” Overall by creating a stimulating arts and culture environment on campus, I hope that our students after 4 or 5 years – graduate as well-rounded individuals with an appreciation for the arts. So perhaps one day when they sit on a board [of directors] and a non-profit or arts related group comes asking for sponsorship, they will remember their positive arts exposure at Laurier and play it forward.
Not everyone is going to like [everything]. I’ve been here 18 years and I’ve gotten lots of responses to the shows. Some people hating them and some people loving them. And I think that’s good because it makes me realize people are seeing it. Someone hating it is not a bad thing, because they saw it, they responded to it. It had an impact. If something doesn’t have an impact I don’t think it’s really doing its job, whether it’s positive or negative. I want people to come back. I want to hear what people have to say about the shows.