A very quick update. Since my last post, the (SCENE)metrospace online accounts have, I believe, officially been transferred to AAHD hands. I mention this because, on July 17, it was finally announced that the space is closed for renovations until September. That, and the contact information has been updated on the main website. And yesterday – possibly earlier, but I saw it via social media then – the call for submissions for the gallery’s next/first exhibition was posted. A couple thoughts:

For “hitting the ground running” (the phrase I heard used in meetings this spring), I’m a little surprised that the call for submissions for the first show is now, in the latter half of July, two months out. Although, I’m guessing that’s partially why the opening’s date has been pushed back a week to September 18.

Second, there’s a financial concern. I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised to see an entry fee for submissions. However, I’ll concede that that’s the way it often goes for applications for exhibitions, conference, college and grad school admissions, and the like. So, while I’m a bit surprised by this, it doesn’t bother me as much as it does some others. AAHD’s reasoning, when pressed via Facebook: “Project-related expenses range from the professionally designed full-color catalogs created for our open call juried exhibitions to the recently upgraded lighting and flooring in the gallery.” My immediate thought upon reading this was that in-house printing of promotional materials was touted as one of the cost-saving virtues of having MSU’s AAHD run the space instead of the City. This was highlighted more than once. I wonder if the City charged submission fees? If not, it’s just one more financial avenue not explored before claiming financial stress…

Although, that’s not what really caught my attention. What did is a new facet of the lease agreement slipped into the submission call (emphasis mine):

“(SCENE) Metrospace is free and open to the public, with the exception of some special programing [sic].”

Now that’s a surprise. All discussions and debate centered around the venue remaining free and open to the public with no mention of “special programming.” Rereading the operating agreement last night, the relevant part is even highlighted:

“MSU is operating the gallery independently and in its sole discretion. MSU intends to continue to offer opportunities, at not cost, for the general public to attend the exhibits and events on average of approximately 20 hours per week.”

Does “we [MSU] will not charge” now mean “free opportunities will be available”? Does this mean that “special programming” is anything outside of those standard 20 weekly hours? So, for instance, a special talk or presentation on a dark day or after hours can come with an admission fee? Does a musical or visual performance count as such? If so, that’s curious, considering such performances will be done by students and/or faculty.

We’ll see…

My intention was to stop posting about (SCENE)metrospace after the recent lengthy write-up, however there continue to be curious turns. Considering where things stand, I do hope that this new arrangement works out and benefits the community — it’s certainly better than the space becoming another tanning salon. But things are off to a rocky start…

UPDATED 07.25.15: I’d like to follow up on a couple items and offer some clarification. Since originally posting this article, I’ve been in touch with a number of folks and thought it’d be worth adding to the “public record.”

1. Charging admission for “special programming.” It’s been suggested by a few that by charging admission the artists/performers will then be paid. This of course is 100% fine by me, and something I fully support. I have a long, consistent record of supporting paying for music/art and compensating artists. This is not at all my gripe when considering “special programming.”

When it comes to charging admission, my concern is that AAHD will receive money for their curating the gallery on the City’s (i.e., our property taxes, etc.) dime. In meetings earlier this year, I even suggested, more than once, that, had (SCENE) considered charging more consistently and more often, we may have avoided this current boondoggle. (Unlikely, considering the very weak financial argument from the City — CofEL just wants to “get out of the curating business.”) What’s more, I asked multiple times on the public record whether AAHD had the financial stability and infrastructure to run the gallery with its current budget/funding. I certainly hope “special programming” is unrelated to that point.

Furthermore, regarding “special programming” – a term that right now is vague at best and only really means “not a weeks-long visual exhibition” – all of those will be in-house (AAHD itself or other MSU departments), somewhat academic in nature (i.e., student performances, etc.), and limited to 6-8 per year. If there are different plans now in the works, then that’s a whole different story, but right now I’m suspicious of language from which I infer that MSU will be reaping the financial rewards while CofEL essentially foots the bill. Now, if AAHD brings in a guest artist to speak or present, etc., and charges an admission which then fully goes to the guest presenter, that’s one thing. But if AAHD is going to be skimming off the top for student groups and the like, then that’s quite another.

I know that it seems odd for me to be suspicious of something I theoretically agree with, but right now I’m just seeing the agreement/plan substantially amended in the first month.

2. Submission fees. It looks like (SCENE) didn’t charge submission fees for open calls in the past (h/t to David MacDonald). Again, very curious. And, again, it’s related to AAHD’s financial infrastructure. I know that toner and other print materials can be pricey, but are the number of catalogues and other promotional materials contingent upon the amount of submission monies received? Ditto physical and cosmetic maintenance.


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