The AMS wants to sell “a $4.5M art collection that’s currently collecting dust” because “authorizing the sale of a few pieces could fund some seriously bougie new programs.” Posters all over campus are encouraging students to vote YES on this referendum question. What will the AMS do with the money? If you ask Ava Nasiri, the AMS president, she will promise that the money will be put towards arts programming, perhaps including an artist-in-residence program at the Hatch gallery. Unfortunately, all the YES campaign is saying is that the money will go to the AMS.
If the money is going to the gallery, what’s my problem with the referendum?
1. The assumption that the artwork is undervalued is subjective and definitely not coming from us students here in the AHVA (Art History, Visual Arts and Theory) Department. Gallery collections are important for us as art historians and artists. We look at artwork to understand the past and create future work. We aren’t creating work in a vacuum, so having accessible art is important to us. Getting rid of art we may never have the funds to purchase again might not be the best way to fund new programs.
“The AMS Hatch Gallery has a $4.5 Million art collection that is under appreciated and costly to maintain.” This quote was on the AMS website until the day before the election began. This referendum is pushing people towards voting ‘YES! Take money away from the arts.’
2. It’s not clear how the money will be used. This screenshot provided is a perfect illustration about the little care that went into this decision. What’s going to happen with the income? Basically we don’t know.
There has been no involvement with the people who are engaged with the arts at UBC. There has been no outreach from the AMS to departmental clubs, or students of AHVA. There are students who are highly engaged in Visual Arts at UBC who weren’t contacted whatsoever or given time to respond to the intense marketing of the referendum.
3. The AMS’s track record for involvement in Hatch events is not particularly promising. The Visual Arts Students’ Association has not received any support for our programming—including our current show in the Hatch. The arts events which the AMS has supported through Dive (a UBC Calendar project), and the Pastels and Pinot (AMS events) haven’t included any involvement with the work of students in the AHVA department.
Reach out, show us you care, don’t sell the artwork without making us a part of the conversation.
I urge everyone to consider voting no in this referendum. This doesn’t mean that the AMS will never be able to sell the work. It just means that they would have to take more time, effort, care, and consideration before selling away art that might have little value for them but quite a bit of value for a largely underrepresented group on campus.