Image Arts students left out of decisions on new building

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By Sarah Jones

In the past few weeks, Gould Street has been lit up by a rainbow of coloured LED lights that shine from the nearly complete Image Arts building. But with 75 per cent of the building finished, Ryerson’s Image Arts students are wondering why they are just being consulted now.

Members of the Image Arts community, including students, professors and administrators, met on March 3 to conduct a town meeting to discuss the highly buzzed about Image Arts building.

Most students were largely unaffected by the construction when it began in 2008, but the Image Arts faculty, which includes film, photography and new media, was dispersed haphazardly throughout the campus. New media students relocated to the Rogers Communications Centre. Film and Photography students were shunted to workshops with inadequate lighting and too little space.

“We’re really pushing the envelope to get you in by September,” said Julia Hanigsberg, Ryerson’s newest vice-president, administration and finance.

The Image Arts building is an initiative of the university’s Master Plan, an ambitious framework for revitalizing the campus and the surrounding downtown neighbourhood.

Now that the department is preparing to move into their new home, students want to know what their place will be in the new building. Many are concerned that their needs will still not be met.

“Beyond gentrification of our campus via Lite-Brite, who are we? It’s a building, it’s walls, but I can find that anywhere, for less than what I’m paying to be here,” said photography student Kyle Brohman.

Despite the murmurs of discontent from some Image Arts students, school administration said the building will create a space for students of all disciplines to mingle.

“We think a sense of space is important, to have people want to spend time on the campus,” Hanigsberg said.

The building includes an $8 million project, the Ryerson Photography Gallery and Research Centre, which will house the Black Star Historical Black and White Photography Collection. The ground floor will also play host to an outsider café or coffee shop franchise that has yet to be determined.

Some image arts students don’t think the new building will be perfect, nor are they happy about that fact that they won’t receive any compensation for the lost resources and decreased educational value they’ve had to tolerate for the past two years.

“There is a complete lack of compensation for lost production space now,” said Michael Thompson, a second-year photography student.

Since the school has made it clear that compensation in the form of tuition refunds would be impossible, other suggestions were offered by students, such as accommodating alumni in the new space after they’ve graduated, giving them a place to create.

The building administration has committed themselves to another meeting with the students in a month’s time.

“I guess all we can really say is that we’re here now. We can’t really march back in time to improve communication,” Hanigsberg said.

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