A function of the arts has always been to enlighten. Verge Gallery (https://verge-gallery.net) on University of Sydney’s campus in Sydney, Australia, furthers this mission through the commingling of exhibition and education. Their many exhibitions intersect with professional panels, new publications and workshops to drive student engagement in the arts. Going a step further than just presenting pieces of aesthetic value, Verge Gallery encourages critical dialogue about current events and issues. We interviewed the director Siân McIntyre to find out more.
Siân McIntyre (S): Verge Gallery opened on August 5, 2009 with the vision of providing University of Sydney students with a creative space where they can access exhibitions and events that enrich their experience on campus. Since 2009, Verge Gallery has hosted over 600 exhibitions and events, from panel discussions to live music events to market stalls and theatrical productions. Today, Verge Gallery’s exhibition calendar is comprised of responses to an annual public callout and is programmed by the Verge Gallery Student Committee.
S: Engaging, Experimental, Opportunity
S: Our key vision is to present engaging and dynamic exhibitions from emerging, mid-career and established artists that provide a platform for critical dialogue around creative practice and current issues with forums, panels and discussions.
How has Verge Gallery evolved over the past 8 years? What are some of the milestones that it has reached?
S: Since opening in 2009, Verge has grown as a space for critical engagement, supported by strong public programming. Each exhibition is supported by a public or in-house program that intersects with the content of the show.
In 2015, we opened our Reading Room, which boasts an array of international publications, artist books and zines. In the same year, Earlwood Farm, supported by the City of Sydney presented a series of events linking environmental issues to art and politics. The program was a huge success, engaging hundreds of people in community-focused events. In November 2015, Verge presented Refuge, an exhibition accompanied by a series of public programs that aimed to broaden the dialogue around current Australian policy with works by refugee and non-refugee artists. Verge collaborated with Settlement Services International, The Refugee Art Project, Katie Green and Clayton Thomas, commissioning new work and raising over $2,000 for The Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Refuge Centre.
Throughout 2016, Women in the Arts presented a series of events at Verge focusing on mentorship, regional engagement, diversity and accessibility. The events drew hundreds of people and invited an exchange of ideas and professional experiences addressing the endemic issues of gender inequality and exclusionary practices in the arts. More recently, Verge presented a collaborative exhibition with the Australian Centre for Photography featuring Michael Riley photographs from the University of Sydney Union art collection and archival material from the University of Sydney Archives, The Settlement Community Centre and the State Library of NSW.
S: Verge offers a range of valuable programs and resources to students that provide relevant hands-on experience in the arts sector. Verge runs with the support of our volunteers who gain exposure to gallery procedures and programming and are able to develop professional skills across a range of areas. This year, Verge is collaborating with UNSW Art and Design to facilitate a series of professional development of workshops. The program offers students practical and theoretical approaches to art-making in an alternate context and opportunities to develop relationships with the university gallery community and the greater Sydney professional creative community.
Each year, The USU Creative Art Awards provides students with the opportunity to expose their work to industry professionals and the local community over a two-week exhibition period. Each month Verge hosts artist introductions and art critics in the gallery space responding to the current exhibitions This offers students the chance to connect with artists and engage in conversation about developing, resolving and exhibiting artwork. In October this year, Verge is involved in an exhibition exchange program with the University of Melbourne and George Paton Gallery. The project will be an excellent opportunity for student curators to gain hands-on experience outside of a university context under the guidance of Melbourne and Sydney gallery directors.
Please share your thoughts on Verge Gallery’s role in Sydney’s creative communities - and how it may change over the next 10 years.
S: Verge has a multifaceted role, supporting strong, engaged programming and critical dialogue around artworks and exhibitions. As a gallery on a university campus, our first priority is student engagement. Through our volunteer program, students have a direct voice in what is represented through the gallery space. We are privileged to access a wealth of knowledge on the University campus; in this position, we can unpack some significant conversations and as a non-commercial space, we are freer to exhibit more experimental, conceptual and contemporary work. In the context of an institutional space we can provide an overview of the diversity of arts practices in Sydney and overseas. Over the next 10 years, we imagine the space will continue to grow establish connections internationally as well as locally.
What are some of the new ideas/programs that you are incubating at Verge Gallery right now? What can we look forward to?
S: Our upcoming exhibition in May brings together artists well-established in their careers who have exhibited in major galleries and art institutions across Australia. Koji Ryui, Huseyin Sami and Brendan Van Hek will present Unlimited Support, an artist-led project that uses the formal qualities of installation, painting and sculptural work to look at what constitutes a support and what its function may be. This show presents a valuable opportunity for students to engage with artists at the peak of their careers.
Mid-Year, our internally-curated show draws from the University of Sydney Union art collection and archival material from the University of Sydney Archives in combination with works by contemporary Australian artists. The show is a unique opportunity to access these works and engage with a visual dialogue between past and present Australian artists. Later in September, Verge will present an exhibition curated by Miriam Kelly, On the needlepoint. The exhibition brings together the work of contemporary Australian artists who have worked in textiles, re-working the language of the medium, with its domestic, cultural and gendered symbolism to personal and political ends.
- Featured image on the top: Awkward Objects Exhibition 2016 – Photo Credit: Document Photography
- Photos courtesy of Verge Gallery