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Students and the Arts: the Norman Rea Gallery

The Norman Rea Gallery provides a great opportunity for students who are both interested in viewing and curating art

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The Norman Rea Gallery provides a great opportunity for students who are both interested in viewing and curating art.

Founded by the Langwith Provost, the gallery boasts three to four exhibitions a term, including last Monday's 'Miss Hazard', a street artist. We speak to Ally, a Norman Rea curator to glean her insight into the work behind the walls of the Norman Rea: "The gallery was set up by the postgraduate-comprised Langwith Arts Society about fifteen years ago. It used to be the Langwith common room, with beanbags everywhere. After three or four years it became student led, and today we have a committee of about thirty five."

The gallery is not YUSU affiliated, and has a slightly different recruiting process, with History of Art students forming the majority. Ally agreed that it was an attractive selling-point for prospective students.

"Last year when our year took the gallery over, it was completely History of Art-dominated. We wanted to alter this and get more people involved, so aimed our recruitment process at students from different departments. We don't have elections like YUSU societies, but interview people to find suitable candidates instead."

"There is a normal structure to the committee and anyone can put ideas in. We've had a few well-established artists, including a French photographer last year and a guy who's done displays for Selfridges. We've had such a range of work and as a result we hope to attract different groups of people with a changing audience."

The gallery compiles its funds from a variety of sources, including sales: at the Hazard exhibition, works ranged from a £25 t-shirt to a £500 painting. It has also benefited from recent success: "Last year we won a Silver award from the Vice-Chancellor. The money injection will enable us to make it as it should be", Ally gestures towards the crisp white walls. "We've installed new MDF boards over the old walls, which are a much nicer surface to work on".

The gallery is split into two rooms, one large and one smaller lake-facing corridor. We discussed the direction - with all exhibitions most work is displayed on the walls. It can be confusing to know where to begin viewing. Even when there are pieces in the centre, it seems a little slightly haphazard.

"It can be an awkward space to work with, however the limits of the layout do provide a challenge for us to work with, so now we know exactly what works where. Every inch of the walls has been measured again and again, there's a surprising amount of maths. The issue is the space can be booked out for things like Pilates, and it's a corridor between blocks. We can't have things on the floor anytime except for the opening night, only on or against the walls".

With exhbitions, Ally did concede that many "just come for the free wine", but thinks that it emulates a professional gallery, where they have open bars." We suggested an open Courtyard.

As we said farewell, a couple came in and began perusing the pieces. Exhibitions remain for about two weeks, and it was refreshing to see some students actively visiting the gallery, pre-empting the opening night.

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