By Brenna Mackay
Photos by Carleton University Art Gallery

After a long six months of being closed to the public, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) is reopening on September 24, with exciting new exhibitions and a new website.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Carleton University (and CUAG) to close its doors in March, the gallery team began to rethink their approach and purpose.

“We started figuring out how to work together remotely, and thinking about other larger questions like, what does it mean to be a gallery when you can’t bring people in to see your exhibitions in person? How do you continue to serve and engage the campus and civic communities?” says Sandra Dyck, director of CUAG.

The Stonecroft Symposium: To Be Continued Exhbit runs from September 24 to December 12, 2020.

Focus on Digital Connection

The CUAG team spent the summer developing digital programs, including creating new connections with virtual visits to physical exhibitions. They also took on the challenge of updating the CUAG website, a long-term project that was in progress before the gallery closed.

“Having some time over the summer to work on the website in a focused way was definitely helpful and gave us the push we needed to get ready for the fall,” explains Dyck, who adds that their goal was to launch a new website alongside their reopening.

The new website was designed to be welcoming, easy to use and mobile-friendly and will serve as an archive of CUAG’s exhibitions, publications and events. The eventual goal is to have all of CUAG’s content dating back to 1992—the year the gallery was founded—archived. During the summer, the staff consolidated the gallery’s photographs and put them on a cloud-based storage system so they will be accessible in the future as they begin working on compiling their digital archives.

Upcoming Exhibit: Laura Taler: THREE SONGS (January 27 - May 16, 2021)

Upcoming Exhibit: Laura Taler: THREE SONGS (January 27 – May 16, 2021)

Last year, the gallery received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to hire a consultant, Patrice Hall, and develop a digital strategy. Hall led the CUAG team through an extended process of looking at the gallery’s digital strengths, weaknesses and areas they could grow in.

“Those conversations were extraordinarily valuable to have before having to shut down so quickly,” says Dyck. She says that all the work they put into considering how they want the gallery to change and adapt will continue to impact the way her team works in the future.

“It’s great to be able to engage people on multiple platforms and formats,” Dyck explains.

Carleton University Art Gallery Reopens Sept. 24

New Exhibitions this Fall

The reopening will include two ambitious exhibitions that focus on themes of queer history and identity.

To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive, organized by curators Anna Shah Hoque and Cara Tierney, examines local histories and genealogies of queerness. Tierney is a current doctoral candidate in Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture; while Shah Hoque holds a bachelor and master’s from Carleton.

“Cara and Anna thoughtfully reframed and challenged ideas of what queer history is, and how we can and must expand ideas about the accepted queer history of the region,” says Dyck.

From the exhibit To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive

Adrienne Row-Smith, “Furiosa,” 2018, from the series “Mad Max,” digital photograph, collection of the artist

This exhibition features emerging and established artists from queer, trans and Indigenous, Black and People of Colour communities, whose works share lesser-known stories and histories. The exhibition includes photography, paintings, video, installation and sculpture. Thanks to a generous donation from the Stonecroft Foundation for the Arts, there will be an associated educational online symposium including podcasts, artist talks and innovative forms of digital engagement.

The second exhibition is by Paris-based artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay titled, I Don’t Know Where Paradise Is and offers visitors encounters with figures, knowledge and feelings from the queer past, present and future through his hour-long audio work.

Originally, the plan was to have Nemerofsky physically be in Ottawa to install the exhibition. However, due to current restrictions around travel, Nemerofsky and exhibition curator Heather Anderson sought a new approach.

Each week, Nemerofsky will create a flower arrangement based on a particular chapter of the audio work. In concert, CUAG is inviting members of the local queer community to create a parallel arrangement.

Upcoming Exhibit: Carleton Curatorial Laboratory (CCL): Family Matters (January 27 - May 16, 2021)

Upcoming Exhibit: Carleton Curatorial Laboratory (CCL): Family Matters (January 27 – May 16, 2021)

“These two floral arrangements are brought into relationship on CUAG’s website, where visitors can listen to the audio chapter that inspired them,” says Dyck. “It’s a really beautiful and creative way to transcend the constraints imposed by the pandemic shutdown, and to bring people and communities together through working together online.”

“Art is a connector,” shares Dyck. “It connects us to ourselves, to each other, to issues and ideas that shape our lives, and the world in which we live. The need for connection is stronger now than ever.”

The health of visitors was the number one priority when considering how to reopen safely. CUAG’s reopening plan is in line with the requirements of Carleton University and Ottawa Public Health, including reduced capacity, social distancing, increased cleaning protocols, mandatory masks and hand sanitizer.

All visits to CUAG this fall must be booked in advance, through Eventbrite. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. Parking is also free this fall.

Carleton University Art Gallery Reopens Sept. 24

Top image: Adrienne Row-Smith, “Furiosa,” 2018, from the series “Mad Max,” digital photograph, collection of the artist

Second image: RJ Jones, “2077,” digital photograph, collection of the artist

The floral arrangements featured in the story are by Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (left) and Vincent Edet (right).

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