SBCC art students attempt to save art gallery director’s job

SKYLAR SERGE, Associate Editor

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Atkinson Gallery events and artist lectures have invited students into a world of creative culture, but due to financial reasons, that program will be cut dramatically in the coming years.

While City College employees, students and administration believe in the arts programs, the money to support it is just not available.

Art Department Chair Joy Kunz is fighting for the program but says the issue of funding is a major contention.

“The landscape is shifting under our feet,” Kunz said.

Every semester, the Atkinson Gallery Director Sarah Cunningham, coordinates a series of events that pulls the art community together and invites local as well as renowned artists and students to present and even sell their work.

Cunningham became director in 2012, following the lead of Dane Goodman, the former gallery director who served for eight years.

Private donors and other undesignated funds from the foundation have made up the salary that was paying for Cunningham’s position. The total compiled funds for the position was $106,807 and Cunningham was being paid a base salary of $82,279 each year since 2012.

Money for the Atkinson Gallery was also funded through private donors and has run out too. In efforts of saving and securing a position and everything it entails, the art department was asked to raise $2 million. However, the goal was not reached.

According to Executive Vice President Jack Friedlander, the foundation hasn’t had enough money to support this program for the past year and half, raising questions about why more effort wasn’t put in to secure the gallery.

Kunz admits the amount of exhibits and artists lectures will be much less frequent than the current and past three years— yet is hopeful and said the community it trying to come together in efforts to help save the art.

Although students and department members are advocating for the arts, Cunningham’s contract ends at the end of this academic year — so the changes are not only expected, but definite.

The goal at this point is to pay a part-time instructor an hourly stipend to put a couple hours a week into continuing the gallery events and lectures. Funneling money for programs can be done in a variety of ways, one being a proposal submitted by Friedlander to the Academic Senate about hiring employees for specific departments. In a long list, positions for the math, science and English departments have been viewed higher than arts — so the position for Cunningham or a new director to continue is at the bottom of the list.

Ceramics Professor Christopher Bates, 3D Design and Sculpture Professor Ed Inks and Kunz are hopeful that some exhibits and events will remain, especially the student-derived ones.

Journey Coward, Atkinson Gallery employee of over two years and student artist, is trying to not only raise money but awareness to the community at large. Coward is planning several events in the next few months to help raise the $2 million.

“We’re trying to save the gallery, which really means save Sarah’s job to save the gallery,” Coward said. “It’s gonna go into standstill or downhill once she leaves.”

Coward feels that an hourly stipend would cheapen the price of the responsibly that it takes to continue what Cunningham has done. He said that “Sarah’s position is a lot more important than she’s getting credit for.”

Alongside other students and artists, they hope to fundraise enough money with an end-of-year gala, inviting community members and potential donors to donate small or large amounts.

“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,”Friedlander said.

Marla Mockus, a City College ceramics student, has been alongside Coward in organizing events in hopes of saving the gallery. Although Cunningham’s contract is almost at the end, Mockus and fellow artists are doing everything they can to get the community involved and aware.

“It is sad that no one brought it to the attention of anybody else before now, now it seems too late to do anything,” Mockus said. “Sarah has put her heart and soul into the gallery, without her it won’t be the same.”

 

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