Saint John’s only artist-run-centre welcomes new Executive Director, Emily Saab.
Third Space Gallery has introduced Emily Saab as its new Executive Director. Born as raised in Saint John, Saab has a long relationship with the city’s arts scene and the gallery itself. She’s served as President and Programming Chair and played a big part in organizing last summer’s stunning THIRD SHIFT exhibition, an outdoor art installation that encompasses the unique character of Saint John’s historic uptown district.
Emily was kind enough to spare sometime to talk about the gallery, her new position and the important role artist-run-centres play in New Brunswick’s artistic landscape.
Can you explain a bit about your previous involvement/association with the gallery and its programming?
Third Space Gallery entered my consciousness during my senior year at Saint John High School. The Saint John Arts Centre offers an amazing Portfolio Development program and I was lucky to be apart in their inaugural class, along with ten other art school hopefuls. In addition to introducing us to our first life-drawing experience with a real nude model, our mentor, Peggy Woolsey brought our group to Third Space Gallery’s, Tales from the Cyclops Library, an exhibition of artist books, zines and comics. Looking back, I’m not sure what affected me more that year, seeing a nude man up close for the first time, or learning that artist-run centres exist in the world, and being introduced to the possibility of finding my place in that existence.
While navigating art school afterlife, I was drawn to move back to Saint John because it was my home and also because it had an artist-run centre. I contacted Jacqueline Collomb, the gallery’s past Programming Chair and President to ask how I could help with exhibitions, and she gave me task of postering for Montreal-based artists, Erin Sexton and Alex Wilson’s project, Of the Trace. One thing led to another and a year later I joined Third Space Gallery’s board of directors. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the gallery’s board of directors and membership as President and Programming Chair to coordinate and co-curate the past two years of the gallery’s core programming, as well as last summer’s inaugural nighttime exhibition of public contemporary art projects, THIRD SHIFT.
What value does Third Space Gallery present to Saint John’s arts community and how do you hope to strengthen that relationship?
Third Space Gallery’s role within Saint John’s art community is to provide a space for exhibiting non-commercial contemporary art projects within the city. What’s interesting is that Third Space doesn’t actually have a physical space of its own, so when we talk about “space”, we give equal consideration to the immaterial implications of making space here. Finding a physical space to exhibit an artist’s project is as important as establishing a space for contemporary art in conversations and dialogue amongst the gallery membership and the general public. The gallery has been operating without a physical location since 2011 and it’s done so by establishing partnerships with other organizations and individuals in the city to present our programming. Partnerships have been formed both inside and outside of the arts sector, and develop on project by-project bases. It’s been really important to learn what other organizations are doing in our city and realize that while many organizations have a unique mandate and are serving specific communities, sometimes we do have overlapping objectives and when we combine our resources and passions, we can make anything happen.
Artist Run Centres are a unique and important part of NB’s cultural makeup. How do you see their role playing out in the future with funding becoming increasingly tight?
I certainly do agree with you about the cultural value of artist-run centers in New Brunswick. To answer your question about limited funding and it’s affects on the future capacity of artist-run centers in the province, I’d like to reference an observation from the Institute for Applied Aesthetics’ publication “The Artist-Run Space Of The Future”:
“The artist-run space of the future responds to its situated environment. That means that you have to know what to respond to, for whom and why. And through this, the artist-run space of the future will take the form of your local landscape, it will look like the people down the street, sound like the local fauna and flora, it will taste like the food you’re growing inside. Through this process, a rhizome will form and you will understand completely that it was already there to begin with and it was just a matter of seeing it clearly.”
This idea of the artist-run centre of the future resonates with me because Third Space Gallery is an example of an organization that has adjusted and adapted to the local landscape over the past fifteen years. “The Space’, as it was called back in 2000 came into existence because there were people in Saint John who wanted and needed it to be here. It’s gone through many transformations, based on more or less funding but has never ceased to exist. We offer programming from emerging and established artists who cross disciplines and boundaries in their examinations of contemporary culture, thus the economy and subsequently, access to funding is intertwined with the DNA of the space. As long as we can continue to fulfill our mandate, Third Space Gallery will continue to be an important part of our province’s cultural makeup. Also, for reference, a ‘rhizome’ is a part of a mushroom. Artist-run centers of the future are mushrooms.
What can we expect from Third Space Gallery in the year ahead?
So far, 2016 has already been a pretty big year for Third Space Gallery. We experienced an increase in our annual operational funding from the province of New Brunswick and have been able to hire and Executive Director. Third Space had been a volunteer-run organization for the past five years. In the programming realm, we are well on our way in the planning stages for THIRD SHIFT, the second annual nighttime exhibition of contemporary art projects in uptown Saint John which will happen on August 19th. Third Space Gallery is also currently working in partnership with the YMCA Newcomers Connections to present a project by Toronto based interdisciplinary artist, Francisco-Fernando Granados called Spacial Profiling and apostrophe. Fernando’s project is the last in our current project series, Conflicted State, and will take place at the end of June. In addition to our core programming, Third Space is working on producing a quarterly publication of visual art, exhibition reviews, and critical writing surrounding contemporary art in the New Brunswick context.
Learn more about Third Space Gallery.