By MATT GIBSON
Graphic Design students at Niagara College submitted their best pieces of artwork to the Tag Art Gallery in St. Catharines.
The exhibit opened April 21 and will run until April 27. The Tag Art Gallery made its debut in August 2007. The gallery began as the Tomasi Art Gallery.
Gallery owner Tom Goldspink is responsible for ensuring that new exciting artwork makes its way into the gallery.
"I started the art gallery with a young couple who were photographers in 2005. Prior to that, I had a 37 year career at Ernst & Young," says Goldspink. He has always been somewhat of a visionary. "Initially, we envisioned a gallery where all forms photographic art could be presented. Then in 2007 we decided to expand the gallery to add many other forms of contemporary and fine art, including jewelry art.
"Our gallery expansion was principally driven by our sense that people in the Niagara region want different forms of art in their lives. The challenge is to present creative pieces at the right price-point," says Goldspink. He says that this business is a challenge, one that he believes he is ready for based on the success of the Tag Art Gallery and what it has to offer.
Goldspink says, "Beyond its commercial purpose, an art gallery should be an oasis from the day-to-day challenges of life; it should be a place where people can browse, reflect on the art and marvel at the talent and imagination on display." He has done this, he says.
Success takes time, but how does an art gallery thrive for a long period of time?
"It takes years to establish an art gallery in a community," says Goldspink. Goldspink says that spreading word and marketing is the key aspect to success for a Gallery in a community. "While art is an integral part of the expression of our soul, it is not always a first priority given all the demands on our financial resources; a thriving art community is the key to a strong urban society."
He says he credits Niagara College as being an example for the success the gallery is having. Goldspink says that his idea of spreading the word is exemplified with the turnout on April 21. "That’s why we supported Annette Hemerick, chair, School of Media Studies, when she asked if we would make the gallery available for a week to showcase the talents of the students at Niagara College."
Hemerick says that she made it possible for Niagara College students to have their art on display for a week at the gallery by contacting Goldspink.
"This was the first event from Niagara College combining three programs held downtown St. Catharines."
Hemerick says there were several factors that attributed to the success of opening night, factors including an attendance of over 220 people.
"This event saw huge success, not only because of the attendance, but because there were a lot of people from the art industry," says Hemerick.
She says she believes for some students this night contributed not only to success in the classroom, but success outside.
"Students have been asked to drop off portfolios and business cards so that they may be contacted in the future and people were asking if pieces of art were for sale."
On April 21, the gallery exhibited about 45 artwork pieces. Each piece belongs to a different student at Niagara College. Students from the Graphic Design Production-Art and Design Fundamentals programs were granted the opportunity to hang their art throughout the gallery. These included all sorts of artwork, from paintings to graphic design posters.
Stephanie Forward, 21, is a third-year student in the Graphic Design program. Forward has a graphic design poster on display and it includes 12 images. Forward says this is the first time she has had her work displayed in a gallery. "I thought it was a good experience, it was a little intimidating, people coming in who don’t know you personally looking at you and judging your work."
Forward says she could not simply choose what she wanted to put on display and that she was given strict guidelines to follow.
"Most of the artwork had to do with branding; it had to be relevant with what we are studying this year. First and second year is more based on technical skills, where third year is more developing ideas and turning one idea into several different ideas." Forward says she believes her artwork displayed that.
Dorothy Howard, 21, is also a Niagara College third-year Graphic Design student. Howard says she has about 10 pieces of artwork on her poster for display. She says the gallery exhibit could benefit her career.
"It was good because there were a lot of industry people invited and if they see what they like you could get a job out of that. "For some students these galleries are looked at as competition. Students competing for bragging rights can often end up competing for jobs.
"Not only is the gallery a competition, our whole program should be a competition because in the end we are going to be competing for jobs."
Another student who had a graphic design poster on display was James Newman, 21, a third-year Niagara College Graphic Design student. Newman says he had about eight pieces of art for display on his poster. He says he took a risk.
"We had the theme of graphic design but I chose to make my work more illustration heavy."
Newman says he didn’t feel much pressure at the gallery and believes that the gallery was less competition and more opportunity.
"All my art is inspiration based, it allows me to express myself, this time I was able to express myself as people watched." The three students developed similar pieces of artwork, the reason being they are all third-year graphic design students.
Nick Gotts is a second-year Graphic Design Production-Art and Design Fundamentals student. He too had a piece of artwork on display.
Gotts brought a unique painting, somewhat like a portrait. He says he was awarded honorable mention by three Niagara-area artists judging the event. Gotts says he was informed that he had one of the better displays on opening night.
"This was my first time being a part of a gallery. It was surreal; you never expect something of yours to be up on display for everyone to see."
Gotts did not have to follow the same guidelines as the third-year students. He was responsible for creating a painting inspired by a specific artist but each student was not aware of which artist they would be studying.
"The whole class drew a name from a hat and mine was Paul Lee."
Gotts says he took the time to really look into the Lee’s work to guarantee he could do the best artwork possible. Gotts says he does believe his displayed painting was unique.
"I love being able to be as creative as crazy, there are no limits to what you can do, you just have to let your mind wander."
Niagara College professor Greg Smith is the Graphic Design program coordinator. He is responsible for making sure that all of these hopeful artists had a chance to display their artwork and be given the best opportunity possible to make a good first impression to the industry.
"It was an unusual venue. Graphic design is not usually shown in a gallery situation. This is a show to see what you can do, like a collage of what they have done. This was a great chance to prove what you can do in a real gallery. I was never able to do that."
Smith says he always keeps a close connection with his students.
"It’s bittersweet. This means they are going to graduate."
For more information visit www.tagartgallery.ca or visit the Tag Art Gallery at 214 King St., St. Catharines, Ont.