Funding for Wichita State’s ShiftSpace Art Gallery uncertain
With the cut, the space could lose its part-time gallery manager and paid student workers.
ShiftSpace Art Gallery at Groover Labs in Old Town could lose two-thirds of its funding this week.
The student gallery is part of Wichita State University and receives funding through the student fees process. The process allocates millions of dollars collected in fees to student groups and organizations each year.
With the cut, the space could lose its part-time gallery manager and student workers for at least three years. This is the first year that the student fees committee began its staggered review cycle, with organizations being guaranteed their funding for three years.
“How we run helps those students establish a relationship with the community, which is … very important as you're learning to become an artist, as you're trying to establish yourself,” said Lydia Humphreys, a graduate student at WSU and ShiftSpace’s president.
According to Student Government Treasurer Zachary James, part of the issue with ShiftSpace’s funding is whether the gallery is a registered student organization (RSO) because its status as an organization has lapsed.
RSOs are no longer eligible to go through the student fees process but can go through a separate appropriations process.
“We as a committee had to make the decision since we weren’t getting clear answers [during the student fees process], and we decided that they're more of an RSO than anything and so that they wouldn't be eligible for the student fees process,” James said.
As treasurer, James is also the chair of the student fees committee.
The gallery hosts several student art shows and community events. Currently, the gallery is showcasing artwork by seniors in the School of Art, Design & Creative Industries bachelor of fine arts program in studio art.
According to students who work at Shiftspace, cutting the manager position would create even more work – and no pay – for them to put on art shows.
“It's not fair to ask people to work for free,” Humphreys said.
Student worker Zoey Hayes began working at the gallery at the beginning of this year. Although she’s a transfer student studying medical laboratory sciences, she said working at the gallery as a social and creative outlet.
“It's been a real benefit to my life,” Hayes said. “Something that I can step away from… chemistry and microbiology and step into, ‘Ooh, I get to hang some art on the wall and talk to other people about art.’”
Without pay, Hayes said, she’d have to quit.
“This is my second job,” she said. “I can't afford to just do art stuff without getting paid.”
Kristin Beal is the gallery’s manager. Eliminating her position due to funding cuts could also eliminate student opportunities for mentorship.
“That person serves as a larger connector between students and community, but also a mentor who teaches so many different things that are on-the-job techniques that you don't learn in class,” Humphreys said.
“In class you're learning… how to make art. Here, you're learning how to sell your art, how to show your art, how to manage your social media, how to do public relations… community things, like I even learned grant writing within ShiftSpace.”
Senior Devin Carter echoed that sentiment.
“Last semester… I applied for a grant that the professor for the class told us to … run past him first,” he said. “But I was confident enough in my grant writing skills that I didn't run it past them, I just went ahead and did it anyways, and ended up getting awarded money from the Art Advocates to do a community art project in Pretty Prairie.
“Those skills I learned was through ShiftSpace.”
At a student government meeting last week, some senators suggested the gallery find other means of funding – including taking commissions from artists who sell their work in the space.
“We don't want to take any money from students who are trying to sell their art, that's just, I mean, they are working really hard,” Humphreys said, “and we want them to have that full reward of that experience.”
A petition in support of fully funding the gallery has more than 400 signatures, according to Humphreys.
A final vote on the gallery’s funding is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Rhatigan Student Center.
Student government representatives will vote to either cut the gallery’s funding for the next three years, or sustain its full $67,445 request for one year from about half a million dollars of reserve funding.
“It won’t be a permanent solution to their problem,” James said about reserve funding.
Students with ShiftSpace said they’d be open to finding other means of funding.
“But we need time to do that without dissolving the organization completely, which is what that cut would really do,” Humphreys said.