During Orientation Week, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) rented out the Gallery of Student Art (GoSA) to Bell MTS, sparking disappointment among members of the School of Fine Arts Student Association (SOFA).
Mathew Lacosse, a fourth-year School of Art student and co-president of SOFA, explained that a show he booked with fellow fine arts student Maya Martinez-Alper earlier this year had to be postponed to accommodate Bell MTS during Orientation Week.
Lacosse said that he and Martinez-Alper were informed of the change in availability of GoSA only a few weeks before the scheduled opening of their show.
“We booked it for the first week of school with the intention of having a show to get people excited about being involved as students,” Lacosse said.
On UMSU’s website, GoSA is described as “a non-profit and non-commercial student-run gallery,” whose mandate is “to promote student art and design work at the University of Manitoba.”
Speaking as to why Bell MTS using GoSA is an issue, Lacosse said that for the space to be used as a means of profit “just boggles my mind and speaks to a much larger issue of corporate takeover of everything.”
“I would just think that something like a students’ union would be able to see an issue with that and have boundaries with their corporate sponsorships,” he added.
“That space should definitely have a boundary set around it. It’s a space for students and it should be used for students, especially in the first week.”
Madeline Rae, a fourth-year fine arts student and member of SOFA has had two solo shows featured at GoSA.
“It was a really great opportunity to show my work in a really public space and gain experience setting-up a show and learning how I wanted my work represented,” Rae said.
Rae said that having work featured at GoSA is an important practical application for an emerging artist’s career.
“For me, it was super beneficial to get to actually install my work and then have the feedback from the public,” she said.
The gallery is “a really, really nice space, it’s really central and it’s a nice way for students from different faculties to kind of interact.”
Rae claimed that Bell MTS began setting up while another student’s work was still being featured in GoSA.
Calling the action “disrespectful,” Rae said, “Our work should be taken seriously. The work and expression that’s shown in that gallery should be taken seriously.”
GoSA is “a space for students, paid into by students,” Rae added.
“And I would love to see what can happen with the space and all the opportunities that are possible with it and not have students feel like corporations are being prioritized over their expression.”
UMSU VP external Wilfred Sam-King said that throughout his years as a U of M student, GoSA has never been available for shows during Orientation Week, but has rather been “used to store day timers, as a staging area for free breakfasts and other such programming.”
Sam-King added that while Orientation Week consists of balancing student opportunities and requests from external organizations, external requests are important as they provide sponsorship funding which is central to maintaining UMSU’s services.
“I will not get into the specifics of our agreement with Bell MTS, but it is worth noting that the sponsorship from this single week is enough to fund GoSA for the 2017/18 school year,” he said.
Sam-King also noted that the double-booking was a miscommunication on UMSU’s part, and that the union will take measures to remedy the situation with those involved and will consider feedback from the student body in future decision-making.