Scoop W. Gerbil
The Image Arts building is set to open in only two weeks and Ryerson president Sheldon Levy says it will be all ready for students on Oct. 11. But the building still seems to be mostly dirt and dust
For two years, Image Arts students have waited in limbo with makeshift studios and cramped labs while the university lagged on a project that was intended to be completed more than a year ago.
After missing the original deadline last September, the university vowed to have the $70.95 million Image Arts building completed by this fall. Classes were scheduled in the building for this September but, shortly before school began, students were told once again the opening would be postponed.
With a final two-week push until the Oct. 11 opening, university officials keep reassuring that, this time, the deadline will be met.
“I wouldn’t say a 100 per cent, but the majority of activity in the building should be open,” said President Sheldon Levy. “The priority was given to student spaces and student labs.”
The details were veiled by empty press releases that revealed little more than dates, square footage and staged photos.
All the secrecy made me wonder whether the project was just in for another delay.
I asked for a tour of the building to get some exclusive photographs of the work in progress. I was denied by Julia Hanigsberg, vice president administration and finance, and told a tour would delay the entire construction process.
Instead, I asked for updated photos. Again, I was denied and redirected to the website, where the most recent photos were from July.
So I took my own tour.
Getting in was easy. The Bond Street entrance, across from the security building, was left open overnight.
The 15-minute uninterrupted tour revealed what I expected —dust, unfinished ceilings, building materials and construction equipment. There didn’t appear to be any improvement from the photos taken in July. I’m no construction expert, but a building set to open in only two weeks should host fewer cranes and more desks.
Right now the university is saying students will gain access to study spaces in the basement, second and third floors, classrooms in the basement, most darkrooms on the ground floor and the studio on the second floor. Production facilities on the third floor and offices on a number of the floors will also open. Other facilities will gradually open throughout the term.
Last year, Levy told the Eyeopener that the university had underestimated the complexity of transforming a former brewery into a high-end gallery.
“We kept on saying to ourselves ‘it would have been easier just to knock down this building and start again.’ And maybe, if we could move the clock all the way back, we would have done that,” said Levy last September.
If the Image Arts building is really set to open in two weeks, I see no point in hiding. Or maybe Sheldon was right — perhaps the project should never have been taken on in the first place.