By Jen Belanger, Jordan Heath-Rawlings and Don McHoull
The months of sleepless nights will finally end on April 25, when the students who produced Maximum Exposure, Ryerson’s annual image arts exhibit, can open their gallery to the public and enjoy the fruits of their labours.
That gallery will be the image arts building itself, transformed into a walk-through exhibit for gallery owners and industry heads. The 14th annual exhibit will be the largest yet, with artwork spread across all four floors of the building, said the show’s student organizers, Avi Bader and Marion Giesler.
The two students are ecstatic that the show is nearly ready to go, despite difficulties they’ve encountered along the way.
“We felt a certain amount of pressure from the school, the head and from our program, but we pulled through,” said Bader, who co-organized advertising, fundraising, production, registration and budgeting for the event.
“We’ve already surpassed what has been done in the last five years. There have been more people and more donations,” explained Giesler.
“We thought this was a good opportunity to learn how to curate and organize a whole event. I also want to own a gallery someday so this is great life experience,” said Bader.
The first floor galleries are reserved for the fourth-year students, because they’re the ones that are really looking to attract industry attention. Being on the first floor is the key to getting noticed, said fourth-year image arts student Natasha Lan.
“The first floor has the real studio lighting, the rest of the school has ceiling lights — usually they’re fluorescent. Plus, you have to hang your art on a brick wall.”
“If [your artwork] is right on the first floor, it’s like boom, it’s right there when you walk in. There’s going to be a lot of people in the industry and gallery owners that will come out and they’ll get to see what the fourth-years are doing,” said Lan.
“If they know you have good work in Maximum Exposure, you may not get a gallery show right away, but they’ll keep tabs on you.”
In order to create the maximum exposure for students that is the show’s namesake and mandate, Bader and Geisler have been working with artists and other students since early in the year. Bader said she is aware of how important exposure is for her fellow students.
“The press is there and other galleries come to check it out. Some students even have business cards ready … they really want to be seen.” She said.
Weekly meetings were held throughout the year. Bader and Giesler created an e-mail list of people who wanted to help out.
“We would meet to discuss fundraising ideas, how things were progressing, and to delegate jobs. We would follow up on what was done during the past week as well,” said Bader.
The posters for Maximum Exposure were designed by Ray Wong, a fourth-year new media student who won a design contest with his black and white paintings of a television and stick people being brushed out with an X.
Last November, Bader and Giesler sent out proposal letters to companies asking for financial support.
“A lot of companies couldn’t help us because of [the financial slowdown after the terrorist attacks of] Sept. 11. They sais it just wasn’t in their budget,” said Giesler.
The list of sponsors quickly became smaller. Fortunetely, Bader and Giesler received generous donations from Ryerson University, Kodak, P-Facs and Adfactor. After overcoming the lack of funding, Bader and Giesler wanted to make sure future student organizers wouldn’t have the same problems they did, or at least that they’d have the means to overcome them.
Their legacy is a progress binder, which will be submitted for evaluation in April.
“We could have used some sort of blueprint from last year. We kept [the progress binder] for next year’s group, so they know what they should start right away,” said Giesler.
The show’s new faculty advisor, Hans Westerblom, was a boon to Bader and Giesler and will also be a source of valuable experience for next year’s organizers.
Bader and Giesler were referred to Hans Westerblom in February by the Chair of Image Arts, Brian Damude. Westerblom, the program director of the film and photography department, was happy to help.
“I recommended [Westerblom] to them because he volunteered to help, and he has thirty years of experience,” said Damude. “They wanted someone to be a conduit between the faculty and [Maximum Exposure].”
Bader said that Westerblom was a real help. “He was like a breath of fresh air. He came in the middle of everything and at a time when we were stressed because there was a lot of things not getting done,” she said. “He’s been very open and just listens to our ideas. He e-mails us anything we should know or work on, he comes to meetings.”
Damude said the annual exhibit is the most important event of the year for the school of image arts. “Having all four floors as a gallery, there’s just so much energy,” he said. “This isn’t just about students getting exposure, it’s also a celebration of all the work that’s been done over the year.”
There are 175 spots available to hang prints and 90spots to install film screenings. As of late March, places remained for only five more prints. With Bader and Giesler’s work almost at a close, they can finally sit back and appreciate what they’re put together.
“Something this large is amazing. I mean people work all year on projects that end up under their bed or in the closet. This is the chance to say, ‘Yes, we did something,’” said Bader.