The strange life and upcoming renaissance of the Ritz Gallery

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

—————–The upshot:

The gallery has been in three buildings and is now in grove hall.

The gallery urgently needs lighting and entrance upgrades.

Students have raised $5,000 by selling chocolate to help pay for the improvements.—————–

The Ritz gallery is the home for student and faculty displays on campus. But you wouldn’t know by looking at it.

An ordinary door, like you’d use for any classroom, enters into the open space of the gallery. The three-section floor reflects the fluorescent lights and sound-absorbing tiles that make up the ceiling of the Ritz Gallery.

Compared to the quality of many schools’ student art display places, the Ritz is a poor cousin.

The gallery was named for Madeline Ritz, who “smoked Camel cigarettes and rode horses,” says visual arts department head Norman Gambill. “She was a tough lady.”

The gallery is a little rough too, according to Gambill. But it’s not for lack of effort. He says the department has $5,000 saved up for the renovations. The cash came from chocolate sold by students.

Gambill says Jerry Jorgensen, college of arts and science dean, has been supportive throughout the effort

“The dean was very enthusiastic about the project, he really was,” he says.

The gallery has many problems. The door is a regular classroom door, and therefore any art that goes inside must be small enough to fit through.

The ceiling is low, which means art can’t be very tall.

Only one wall has an extra layer of plywood, says Crystal Boetel, senior fine arts major and curator’s assistant for the Ritz Gallery. That means heavy works of art must be hung on that wall, regardless of how the artist originally intended for the work to be shown.

The gallery has flourescent lighting, instead of the usual track lighting. That means art, especially sculpture, can’t be presented in the way the artist wants.

“If you go to the South Dakota Art Museum, they have lights shining on a sculpture from many different directions,” she says.

The lighting is important, says fine arts senior Brad Thiele.

“it either makes it more dramatic or it flattens it,” he says. What does the flourescent light do?

“It deadens it,” he said.

Boetel says parking is a major problem. There is none.

“When I want to have a senior show, it’ll be hard to get a parking spot for my grandparents,” she says.

It will cost almost $25,000 just to replace the door, says Gambill. He says the money might be there if the gallery was given the same attention as other arts areas on campus.

“Take a look around at the other support on campus for the performing arts, and athletics,” he says. “Which of these are set up for professional standards? Our student and faculty work is not given the same professional parallels.”

Boetel says the only support for the changes she knows of would be from alumni that have had a how themselves, and lived through the frustration of displaying their work in the gallery.

“I don’t know if anyone else cares,” she says.