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New Westminster on leading edge with New Media Gallery

Gordon Duggan and Sarah Joyce work as a team and together are the new director/curator of New Westminster’s New Media Gallery, slated to make its home in the Anvil Centre when the new facility opens in September. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Gordon Duggan and Sarah Joyce work as a team and together are the new director/curator of New Westminster’s New Media Gallery, slated to make its home in the Anvil Centre when the new facility opens in September.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

Sarah Joyce and Gordon Duggan have worked at prestigious art galleries and schools in Canada and abroad.

But when they found out New Westminster was looking for someone to operate its New Media Gallery in the Anvil Centre they couldn’t contain their excitement.

The couple first heard about plans for the gallery about two years ago. They had long wanted to run one dedicated to new media, as the plugged-in art world fascinates them. Joyce had even written the codes for professional conduct for new media while working at the Tate Gallery in London. There aren’t many galleries devoted to new media in Canada, and here was New West offering the chance to start one from scratch.

“It was too exciting not to pursue,” says Joyce, a native of Powell River who met Duggan while working at the Glenbow Museum in his hometown of Calgary about 25 years ago.

They have been running a consulting business out of Denman Island since 2007. But this opportunity was too intriguing.

“This is what we love,” says Joyce. “We’re really passionate about it.”

Today, they’re in the midst of programming the new gallery, slated to open with the rest of  the Anvil Centre in September.

And if they deliver some of the types of exhibitions previewed for the NewsLeader, it’s safe to say visitors to the new gallery may be blown away every time they walk through the doors.

For many people, mention art gallery and an image of white walls and paintings pop to mind.

Not this gallery. Duggan says visitors can expect it to look different every time they visit. That applies to the wall colour, the lighting, and the technology. Everything.

New media is almost limitless. It can include video, robots, sound, lights, internet data mining and much more.

“More or less if it’s plugged in, if it needs electricity, it falls within our mandate,” says Duggan. “It will be very interactive, very experiential. It’s always experiential.”

“New media is contemporary art,” adds Joyce.

Eventually it will become standard. After all, they point out, cave paintings were the new media of its time.

While the Anvil Centre itself will impress visitors, Joyce and Duggan hope to take that to a higher level when a visitor walks into the gallery.

Duggan’s laptop is loaded with plugged-in projects from all over the world that do just that. They are strange, fascinating, colourful, noisy and beautiful. They are powerful demonstrations of the limitless artistic imagination.

The budget, of course, is a different matter. It’s not limitless. (Admission to the gallery will be free or by donation.)

“You have to make some very savvy choices with what you bring in,” says Duggan, who also points out they are experienced at developing corporate sponsorships. “The budgets are a very delicate balance.”

The duo is already negotiating with artists. And they’ve got connections everywhere. They are close to a deal for the first exhibit but can’t yet say what it will be.

They’ll have 2,000 square feet to work with on the second level of Anvil Centre.

The gallery will also have access to another 900 square feet that it will share with the museum next door.

“It’s a good size and we’ll be able to bring some exciting exhibits into this space,” says Duggan. “You know you’re in a new experience. Because we’re starting from scratch we have the ability to shape it.”

The plan is to have a new exhibit every 10 weeks.

To make it accessible they’re pondering modifying the gallery’s hours to take advantage of conventions, Anvil Centre theatre events, and the fact many people in the neighbourhood are busy working during the weekday. In addition, the gallery will be capable of hosting private social events during the exhibits.

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