By Brian Liu and Eric Lam
Image Arts students are losing patience with the stalled Black Star Gallery renovation, and Ryerson can add a land dispute with the city to the growing list of problems.
“A strip of land between Image Arts and Lake Devo is city property and our construction plans to be on that property,” said President Sheldon Levy.
“We have to work with the city to acquire that property, and so some of the decisions are not in our hands and that’s been part of the delay,” he said.
Aside from negotiations with the city, Levy said there are many “major requirements” that need to be met before construction can begin.
These include “architectural needs, academic space needs and gallery needs,” he said.
However, the sticking point has been money — all these needs must fit within the university’s budget.
“It has been a difficult set of discussions, because you’re trying on the one hand to stay within the budget, while on the other hand the gallery has to be able to provide the type of space that is consistent with the level of the Black Star collection,” he said.
“I don’t think the initial amount of money that we allocated can do all of the above.”
But Image Arts students are most concerned about their academic needs, especially with the changes the school has proposed.
“From seeing the floor plan and everything, it seems like a waste of space and money, and it’s not going to benefit anyone except the people being showcased in the gallery. I don’t think it’s going to make life any better for anyone in the building,” Michelle Urbanc, a second-year photography student, said.
“They cut our darkrooms completely in half and we’re not going to get that space back. I think it’s pretty much just to find enough room for the gallery,” she said.
Under the current plan, a first-floor studio will be converted into the gallery, while students will be given a new, smaller studio on the second floor.
A café, which students have heard from faculty may be a Starbucks, will also be added to the ground floor.
Students are not happy about either development, complaining that the smaller studio’s ceilings, which are half as high, will wreak havoc on lighting and the café would take away student space.
“We came here for an education, not for a Starbucks,” said Christina Kenny, a second-year photography student.
“[Admin is saying] ‘we’re taking away your studio space, but don’t worry, don’t be upset, you’re going to get a Starbucks.’”
Levy said no decisions have been made about the café.
“To say that we’ve made up our minds on Starbucks or Second Cup or a student-run place or whatever, it’s really premature,” he said.
Image Arts chair Don Snyder said existing darkroom space would be converted to new classrooms to make up for the space taken up by the new studio.
He said the darkrooms have not been heavily used since digital photography became popular. But Urbanc and others still use film cameras.
“At the end of the term, when we’re all presenting our final projects, the dark rooms are going to be packed.
“I really don’t care if we have a gallery or not. I hate that they’re using student space to make an entrance to the gallery,” she said.
Kyle Rae, the city councillor for Ryerson, said there is a process Ryerson has to follow to get the land.
“First, Ryerson has to make a request to stop up, close and purchase the land. Then the city decides if we need the lane, and if not then we can advertise that the lane is a surplus. After that we have to get the Council to approve it, and then we sit down with Ryerson and discuss.”
As for whether Ryerson would need to purchase the land or if the university could rent or lease, Rae said it would be part of negotiations.
But Rae didn’t know whether Ryerson had applied.
— With files from Drew Halfnight