The message from the Third Street Gallery’s director Jack Bentley was an announcement of his pending retirement — not a complete surprise — but it went on to inform all of us that HSU is planning the concurrent closure of the gallery, a shock to many — even to Jack. His letter is a call to arms for those who would like to save this important cultural resource. I’ll let Jack take from there…
On next July 30th, after 20 years of managing the programs at the HSU Third Street Gallery, formerly the HSU First Street Gallery, I will leave my employment at Humboldt State University. During my time at the gallery, I have been privileged to participate in a multifaceted and creative collaboration with a wide range of community members, students, faculty, university staff and administration, as well as with all of the wonderful student, regional and visiting artists whose work we have been so lucky to exhibit. I’m very grateful to all of these people who worked with us to help establish community and student accessibility to a wide range of art forms and types of expression. Thank you to all of you for helping us to cement the reputation and the professional standing of the gallery!
When the gallery was founded in 1998, it was established as a community outreach program with the mission to provide a fine arts venue and an exhibition program, readily accessible to our North Coast community, while simultaneously providing a hands-on site for HSU students to learn and implement museum and gallery practices. The gallery was established as an independent department within the university, with its own budget.
[Jack showed me the Third Street Gallery when it was under construction a little more than a year ago.]
Currently, with its location in Eureka and with over 26,000 visitors annually, Third Street Gallery is by far HSU’s most visited, most popular fine arts gallery. In readers’ polls published by the North Coast Journal, HSU Third Street Gallery was selected as the North Coast’s Best Art Gallery in 2011 and 2016. Thanks to the work of our students and to the support of our community and university colleagues, the gallery has garnered a reputation that stretches way beyond our region and draws visitors and artists from far and wide.
When I formally notified the university administration of my plan to leave the university, I made a series of recommendations to ensure the gallery’s smooth transition to successor management in order to continue the gallery’s service to students and to the community.
Not long after notifying my supervisor of my intention to leave, I learned that a proposal to shut down HSU Third Street Gallery had been submitted to the (HSU) President’s Cabinet and had been subsequently passed along to HSU’s University Resources Planning Committee (URPC) for further study.
Couched in the language of budget reductions, the proposal is a thinly disguised resource grab by another university department in which the gallery would be shut down and its budget and assets would be absorbed by other on-campus programs.
In this proposed scenario Third Street Gallery, in its Eureka location, would be shuttered in 2019, its budget would be slashed by a one-third and the remaining two-thirds of its budget would be directed to on-campus exhibition programs. Effectively turning its back on making exhibitions accessible to the broader North Coast community, the proposal calls for the remaining two thirds of Third Street’s former budget to pay for an ill-defined, untested future program in the university’s two galleries located on campus, the Reese Bullen Gallery and the Goudi’ ni Gallery, both of which have very low accessibility and visitation rates. In other words, the proposal would shut down a successful cultural outreach program on the gamble that they could do a better job on campus. This idea is the opposite of creative—it’s destructive.
[This was the gallery, again under construction last year, this time showing the fine new floor being added the building. The university made a considerable investment preparing the new space. What were they thinking? Are they thinking at all?]
To date, the committee that is charged with studying this proposal has made no effort to contact me or to consult with stakeholders in the gallery, or with the community, and that is probably by design. The less feedback that they receive, the easier it will be to shut Third Street Gallery down.
And this is why I’m writing to you. You are the stakeholders whose voices need to be heard. Shutting down Third Street Gallery is not a foregone conclusion. This is still a proposal. However, its outcome is dependent on the input and opinions shared with the committee and decision makers. You can help keep the gallery open by making your opinion known and taking a stand as a stakeholder in the gallery.
If you want to help, this is what you can do: You can write an email letter of support for the continuation of the gallery and its programs. You can write any type of email:
A simple short note that addresses your general support of the gallery.
Or you can be more elaborate, touching on some important subjects to address:
• CULTURAL OUTREACH BEYOND THE HSU CAMPUS
• ACCESSIBILITY TO THE NORTH COAST COMMUNITY
• RESOURCE AND SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS, ALUMNI AND COMMUNITY ARTISTS
• DIVERSITY OF EXHIBITIONS
• REPRESENTATION OF COMMUNITY ARTISTS
• VISITING ARTISTS FROM OUTSIDE OUR REGION-Accessible to the North Coast
• ECONOMIC STIMULATION TO OUR REGION
• STUDENT RECRUITMENT AND PUBLIC RELATIONS RESOURCE
• LEADERSHIP OF HSU IN THE ARTS
• ANNUAL EXHIBITIONS DEALING WITH THE SUBJECTS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND ENVIRONMENTALISM
• GENERAL COMMUNITY AND ALUMNI SUPPORT FOR THE UNIVERSITY
The best strategy in this type of letter writing is to copy your email to everybody of concern. That way nobody can deny your contribution to the discussion.
Please address you letters to the two Co-Chairs of the HSU University Resource Planning Committee:
Mark Rizzardi, Professor of Mathematics, Co-Chair, URPC and Alex Enyedi, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Co-Chair, URPC.
Please use the long email string of addresses below to assure that all of the parties involved in this issue will be apprised of your sentiments.
To my friends and acquaintances, I’m leaving the university voluntarily, because it’s time to make a change in my career and my life. So please focus your comments on the gallery rather than on me. This is still in the proposal stage to close the gallery by 2019. Your timely comments can determine the future.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone who you think could help.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.
Director, HSU Third Street Gallery
Ending note from Bob: Jack gathers found photos and shows them to his friends. This one seemed appropriate to me. The whole thing doesn’t make sense and shows that the driver messed up leaving a problem that will be difficult to undo. Let’s see if HSU can change direction before making this decision.