Lynn Beavis appointed Ellen Gallerys Interim Director
by Barbara Black
One day late this summer, Karen
Antaki gazed around the empty art gallery, and realized, with a pang,
that she would miss it. However, she left her position as director/curator
in September with a sense of accomplishment.
Antaki was hired as acting curator in June 1992, overseeing the move into
the renamed Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in the J.W. McConnell
library complex, which opened that fall. In 1995, she became director
curator. (The Dean of Fine Arts had been the director up to that time.)
As of last year, the Gallerys official ties to the Faculty of Fine
Arts were dissolved, and it fell directly under the jurisdiction of the
Lynn Beavis, a Concordia graduate who has worked at the Gallery, has stepped
in as interim director while a search goes on to fill Antakis shoes
on a permanent basis.
The administrative and curatorial roles will likely be split, a suggestion
that came from Karen herself. She found juggling these sometimes contradictory
roles difficult, both in terms of function and time.
The Gallery has gone through enormous growth in the past few years, including
the formation of an advisory board and various committees, a new visibility,
and a heightened profile in the community. It was ironic, Antaki said
in an interview, that at the very time it gained splendid new facilities,
its operating budget was drastically cut, as a result of the general budget-tightening
that hit the whole university sector.
During Antakis tenure, the Gallery secured some $550,000 in exhibition
and programming grants, including several sponsorships. The collection
has grown over the past nine years through the acquisition of $2.3-million
worth of several hundred culturally significant objects. With the help
of an enthusiastic advisory board, the Gallery now has a promotional brochure,
and has instituted a friend-raising program.
Curating the choreography of it all is really
Antakis first love: I believe youve first got to seduce
your audience with the space, through the visual and sensory impact of
the art installation. An interest in the conceptual basis of a show will
Shes particularly proud of the shows she curated herself over her
nine years. Of the eight to 10 shows each year, about 30 were her own
projects. However, she regrets not having the money to publish accompanying
comprehensive catalogues more frequently.
Another obstacle was not having the resources to fund truly high-tech
exhibitions that reflect current advances in new-media art. It costs
a lot to run an art gallery, she said, with some resignation.
Conservation is another issue that must be urgently addressed. Thanks
to an idea from one of the board members, Dr. Sean Murphy, a cocktail
party will be held at the Gallery on Dec. 6 at which guests and patrons
will be invited to adopt a work on display and support its
Storage presents a challenge. The Gallery has a substantial and important
collection of Canadian art, and its small storage area is absolutely packed.
Another challenge is human resources, although Antaki always had a close
relationship with the Faculty of Fine Arts, and built up a network of
docents and curatorial assistants, as well as an educational internship
program, now three years old, based on a Canada Council grant, and offered
in conjunction with Concordias Art Education Department.
She also introduced the Ann Duncan Award for the Visual Arts, annually
given to a fine arts student to fund their tuition and give them hands-on
museum experience in a gallery setting.
Stabilizing the Gallerys support staff will be especially important
as the new director and curator take on their roles.
Antaki is enjoying respite from her duties after a busy period, and will
concentrate on independent curating. A Concordia graduate, she did her
masters thesis on Henrietta Mabel May, a Montreal painter of the
teens, 1920s and 30s.
She has been working for the past year on an exhibition addressing animal
rights and environmental issues that will take her another year to finish.
Art shows, she believes, should be both evocative and provocative.
The Ellen Gallery, with its rich collection of Canadian art historical
(pre-1945), modern (circa 1945 to 1970), and contemporary not only
has a historical mission, but an educational one, and as such, deserves
We always had such great response from the public, Antaki
concluded, whether it was novice gallery-goers or veteran art-lovers
and the gallery has always striven to serve them all. The Ellen
Gallery is one of Canadas most highly regarded university art galleries.
It has been a privilege to direct its activities over the last nine years,
a most rewarding and memorable journey.