Strength in numbers

Joan Sullivan
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Latest incarnation of RCAVisual opens new group show

St. John's newest gallery space opens Friday with a massive group show. ACI Gallery, the latest evolution of Resource Centre for the Arts Visual (RCAV), has a new home at 8 Cliff's Baird's Cove, and is introducing itself to the scene with an unjuried exhibit of 60 visual artists and 120 works.

Gallery co-ordinator Gordon Laurin, busy organizing the logistics of phone lines, computer hook-ups and track lighting - not to mention the details of hanging and labelling such a multi-faceted show - took a few minutes to describe the purpose and prospects of ACI.

Bill Rose "There's A Crack in Everything." - Submitted photo

St. John's newest gallery space opens Friday with a massive group show. ACI Gallery, the latest evolution of Resource Centre for the Arts Visual (RCAV), has a new home at 8 Cliff's Baird's Cove, and is introducing itself to the scene with an unjuried exhibit of 60 visual artists and 120 works.

Gallery co-ordinator Gordon Laurin, busy organizing the logistics of phone lines, computer hook-ups and track lighting - not to mention the details of hanging and labelling such a multi-faceted show - took a few minutes to describe the purpose and prospects of ACI.

RCAV was long part of the mandate of RCA. The institution had been founded on the idea of representing a spectrum of artforms. But there were always problems with including a gallery space in the building. For example, the gallery was also the reception area and a foyer for playgoers waiting for the theatre doors to open, a duel (or triplicate) function that limited what could be presented there.

"The main thing was to have a space solely dedicated to presenting visual arts," said Laurin. "Now, we control the space, we can program projects and installations, anything that in the old space would have broken up and disturbed a place that was often used for as a multi-purpose room."

RCAV shifted away from RCA some months ago, with the RCA board of directors committing to some in-kind support and $5,000 in funding a year for three years. Laurin, along with the former five-member exhibition programming committee - now essentially the ACI board - went hunting for space.

They like what they found.

"We looked at a lot of sites," said Laurin. "It was tricky, and the rents were expensive." Their new home, on the ground level of the old London, New York and Paris (there is an old safe in the corner to prove it), promises a lot of pedestrian traffic, located along a virtual artistic nucleus that includes Eastern Edge Gallery (which itself emerged from RCAV), the St. Michael's Printshop, and the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art.

ACI measures 24 by 46 feet, boasts white-painted walls and wooden flooring, and a big blue door to invite in passersby.

It remains an artist-run gallery, "with the most important part of its mandate being the engagement of the local community," said Laurin. "It's amazing the number of emerging young artists who had their first shows with RCAV."

Along with scheduling exhibits, a calendar determined by committee, ACI also hopes to embark on a range of projects and activities. They might bring in work from outside the region, facilitating exchanges and establishing links with other places.

"A real problem for so many artists is that they can't make their living from a single city, they need projects outside of their hometown," said Laurin.

"And, outside of that, this community can be a bit (geographically) isolated. No other institution will be pursuing that particular aspect. This remains primarily a public space, not a commercial one."

As such, ACI can also facilitate some site-specific works and installations outside of the collectively run space, Laurin said.

First, though, there's the "Community Art Exhibition," with pieces ranging from still lifes to landscapes to portraits rendered in paintings and photographs and prints. The featured artists are also a variety, including Susan Jamieson and Bill Rose, who have long been associated with RCAV, to Greg Bennett, whose growing profile and reputation began with an RCAV show, to Mark Bennett (no relation), who will make his public debut with the show.

The opening starts at 8 p.m. Regular ACI summer hours are 12-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 12-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please call 237-0427.

Organizations: Resource Centre, ACI board, Eastern Edge Gallery

Geographic location: St. John's, London, New York Paris

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