Written by Desirée Leal, an Arts Council of New Westminster volunteer
From an idea first heard about on an unassuming Gulf Island ferry to its current glory, the New Media Gallery at the Anvil Centre is a gem of cultural expression and engagement in the heart of New Westminster. Barely twenty months old, this unusual exhibition space has hosted cutting edge works in new media by artists from all over the world, and has drawn crowds that rival those of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, for attendance. Unique in its conception as well as its curatorial approach, the New Media Gallery invites audiences to participate in thought-provoking exchanges of ideas.
With backgrounds in exhibition making as well as design, art history, conservation and teaching, Director/Curators Sarah Joyce and Gordon Duggan bring the wealth of their combined experience to the realization of every show. Joyce explains that one of the most important ways the gallery serves the people of New Westminster is by providing different and surprising ways of presenting exceptional works that fuse together art and technology, while at the same time de-mystifying both. By showcasing artists that push the boundaries of what one might generally expect from a civic gallery show, the New Media Gallery is a centrepoint inspiring a sense of wonder and civic pride that radiates out into the community.
“The New Media Gallery is the civic gallery for New Westminster, there hasn’t been a civic galley before…The mayor and council and the people who built this idea were quite brave going out on a limb to decide that it would be something different…this is unique in Canada…to have a civic gallery that is focused on new media,” says Joyce.
Joyce and Duggan along with the centre’s invaluable staff and volunteers, personally guide visitors through exhibits, inviting each person or group to connect, not only with the work, but also with the artists and their processes. Each visit brings together viewer, curator and artist into a meaningful conversation about issues of relevance to our world in a straightforward way.
The gallery is completely transformed for each new exhibition, an effort undertaken with much determination and elbow grease by both staff and volunteers. From erecting earthquake resistant, soundproof walls to configuring complex electronic installations, the ingenuity and hard work involved in the installation of each exhibition, may not be readily apparent to someone on the outside, as each transformation is not only dramatic, but also utterly seamless. A visitor might be forgiven for thinking the installations just grow out of the walls and floors like trees and vines.
The New Media Gallery is set to open its ninth show, succinctly titled space_, which runs from June 23 to August 21, 2016. This group show brings together artists from the US and the UK, for a fresh look at the exploration of space, and our current and past relationship with it. Unpacking themes of nostalgia, loss, melancholy and missed opportunity, space_ promises to interrogate our place in a variety of spaces in ways that will have a profound impact on the imaginations of its visitors, drawing them into a world of beauty and curiosity with possibly, a twinge of heartache. For more information visit the website.