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The End of Uptown Gallery

So the end of the Uptown Gallery has come. It was always a thing that we knew would happen. Our arrangement with the mall management was such that we were only there until we were of no futher use. That use was just to fill empty space, to make the mall look good. After a dozen of years or so of making the mall look less empty we have been asked to leave. We all knew it would come but still it is a hard pill to swallow. I've been involved with a few "community galleries" and they all eventually closed. The Uptown Gallery survived longer than any of them. Among the membership is a mix of emotions ranging from sadness to despair and even dare I say relief. Unfortunately we are not the only community gallery space in peril. What we risk losing when these spaces close is an outlet for local artists to maintain a presence in the community. Sure there will be festivals and pop up shows but that is no substitute for a stable exhibition space. The other community gallery spaces are facing pressure from huge rent increases that are meant to push them out, even after proving their value.

As an artist I feel that all the lip service that the arts are an important part of the city's culture is simply bullshit. Those that hold the real estate be it commercial or public simply don't care. I wish they had the courage to just say it. We will support the arts until some else will pay us more. Lets support only what makes us look good. Truth is that maybe no one really cares or at least not enough people care. As visual artists we can do our work without a lot of outside support. We would do it regardless of local shows just to keep from going nuts. We can or at least some of us can take our work elsewhere like Toronto or Hamilton. A lot of us however simply don't have the energy or resources to do that. Other arts such as theatre, dance and music that require much more in terms of space and funding feel the pressure of rising rents and lack of funding even more.

Back to the value of something like the Uptown Gallery. The value to the artists of Kitchener Waterloo is that it provided a stable and consistent exhibition venue. I think to many of our members this was an important source of motivation. A new show every couple months meant that you had to keep working. I'm sure that some would question why an artist would require such motivation but to me it was an important part of my creative drive. It kept me producing new work and looking back at old work because there was always a new show coming up. I didn't have to worry about taking time off work to sit at an outdoor show where it was unlikely that anyone would buy anything. At the uptown gallery I could show my work without pressure to produce images based solely on whether they would sell. Sure iit's great when someone buys your art but thats not why I do it. My sadness over the loss of the Uptown Gallery is that this venue will be lost to those who are not big gallery(public gallery) artists and commercial gallery artists. The Uptown Gallery was a place for those artist to show their art and sometimes sell work to support their practice. What the community loses is a place to see real art in person. It loses the place to see art made by artists in their neighbourhood and to be inspired by real people and to be able to see it whenever it suited, not just at festivals.

So what comes next? Do we become an online gallery? Maybe we'll find some space but I doubt it. Perhaps its time to let it go and start something new. As Bruce Cockburn wrote "Every that exists in time, runs out of time some day"

1 Comment

Jun 05

Damn sorry to hear this Ron.

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