Gallery starved for cash

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The Ryerson Gallery — where artwork by students, faculty and alumni has been displayed over the past nine years — is in financial trouble.

“We’re in desperate need of more money,” says Katia Taylor, the gallery’s co-ordinator.

The gallery needs cash because operating costs have increased while funding from Ryerson hasn’t.

Unlike other businesses, the non-profit Ryerson Gallery doesn’t charge a hanging fee. Admission is free, and the gallery’s policy of keeping 40 per cent of all sales revenue doesn’t bring in enough money — because some artists refuse to sell their work.

“It’s really expensive to keep a gallery open,” says Douglas Clark, the director of the gallery. “We’re in the process of trying to solidify its future.”

Ryerson has pledged to continue paying the gallery’s rent and phone bills, which run about $600 a month. But this is only part of the costs. Ryerson doesn’t pay the “sitters” — who work in the gallery — or the expense of running shows.

“We’ve had to cut all of our costs,” Taylor says, adding the gallery will reduce its hours. Soon it will only be open from Thursday to Saturday, whereas it’s currently open from Tuesday to Saturday.

“The gallery has been able to creep along and exhibit,” says Clark. “But creeping turned into teetering.”

Beverly Abramson, a second-year photography student, is fundraising to save the gallery. This past January, she sent letters to alumni explaining the gallery’s financial problem. She also gave packages to suppliers and spoke to both faculty and students.

But funding is still “touch-and-go,” Abramson says. “If we had a wish list, it would be that some sponsor would come forward.”

Sponsorship would let the gallery extend its programs to include lectures and more alumni work, she says.

The gallery, on the third floor of a converted industrial building at 80 Spadina Ave., shares a space with 25 professional galleries. Since it first opened its doors in November, 1990, more than 250 volunteers have helped the gallery hold eight shows a year.

“It’s a very unique place for students to get the opportunity to exhibit their work,” says Taylor.

Clark agrees. “It’s a fantastic, groovy place to show work.”

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