Humboldt State University’s Third Street Gallery in Eureka may shut down in an effort to reduce the university’s spending budget. The proposal to close the gallery calls for $55,000 of the gallery’s budget to be reduced. That makes a third of the gallery’s whole budget and the remaining two thirds transfer to other gallery programs on campus.
Jack Bentley is the Third Street Gallery director.
“The proposal to close this gallery is actually very short-sighted,” Bentley said. “It misses the point of what the purpose of this gallery was and the inherited highly developed community expectation of what we do here.”
The Third Street Gallery was founded in 1998 to provide students with real world, hands-on learning through work and internship opportunities. It’s also meant to give HSU opportunities to reaching out to the community.
Pedro Uribe Godoy is an art major and works at the gallery.
Godoy opposes the proposal to close the gallery and thinks it is “destructive” as it will cut out a venue for learning for current and future art students.
“There’s a lot to learn here and for them [HSU administrators] to take it away and not expose new students to this line of work, I think, is very destructive,” Godoy said. “They are limiting students of what they’re gonna learn and what kind of avenues of work they can plug themselves into.”
The gallery is supported by the university, revenue from art sales and public donations. The Third Street Gallery raised around $22,000 from both sales and donations during the first half of the current fiscal year.
“It’s kinda messed up for the university to take away this gallery and undermine all the donors that have been donating for this gallery for so long,” Godoy said.
Andrew Daniel is an art alumnus who graduated from HSU 16 years ago. As a student, he had his work shown in the gallery. Daniel wrote a letter to HSU administrators expressing his displeasure with the proposal to close the gallery.
“The gallery brings a unique perspective to the community. It brings in work from out of the area,” Daniel said. “I don’t know if we’ll get those artworks if not for this gallery.”
Over the years, Humboldt County has gained a reputation for being a haven for art and artists of all kinds. Besides student artists, local artists exhibit their artwork in the gallery too.
“It’s such a valuable thing to our community,” Daniel said. “There are a lot of artists in our community that would just not even show their work if it didn’t show at that gallery. It’s such a unique venue.”
In such a rural area, the Third Street Gallery provides students and the community access to different forms of art from different parts of the world.
“We’re rather isolated. Here, people have access to art forms and new ideas that otherwise they won’t have,” Bentley said. “They would have to travel several hundred miles to either Portland or San Francisco to have that type of access.”
The gallery host exhibitions for local artists and other visiting artists from outside the area. It also provides a venue for students and alumni artists to exhibit their work in a professional gallery off campus and in the community.
“Student artists and alumni artists exhibit here where they have a much higher probability of coming into contact with the public than they would if they’re exhibiting their work on campus,” Bentley said.
Living in a rural area like Humboldt, art students at HSU can find it difficult to find a job or an internship related to their major.
Ann Valdes is an art student at HSU and also works in the Third Street Gallery.
“Being in Humboldt, we’re so removed from a large art market. It’s really hard to get good solid work experience if we didn’t have programs like this,” Valdes said. “We’re learning all the lessons that we may not be able to learn if we’ve never worked in a gallery.”
HSU prides itself on offering plenty of hands-on learning opportunities for its students. Students say HSU Third Street Gallery provides students with real world experience.
“I’ve been learning valuable lessons here,” Godoy said. “There’s no more hands on than this. This is hands on.”
Valdes thinks the proposal to close the gallery goes against how HSU advertises itself.
“What this budget cut proposal intends almost goes against the way Humboldt State University advertises itself,” Valdes said. “For them to cut this program is almost undermining what Humboldt says it’s about.”
HSU owns three art galleries. Reese Bullen Gallery and Goudi’ni Native American Arts Gallery are both located on campus, while HSU Third Street Gallery is located off campus in Eureka.
Bentley thinks all of these galleries are important and serve important purposes. The most important purpose, he believes, is that the Third Street Gallery serves as community outreach.
According to Bentley, the art department is planning on launching a new Bachelor of Fine Arts program in the future.
“This gallery is the natural venue for the BFA exhibitions,” Bentley said. “Here, students will have the opportunity to gain more studio time.”
Bernadette McConnell is another art student who works in the gallery. She opposes the proposal to close the gallery. McConnell thinks the proposal to close the gallery is ill-informed.
“If it wasn’t for my job here at the Third Street Gallery, I wouldn’t be here at Humboldt State,” McConnell said. “If this place gets shuttered, I have no reason to be at Humboldt State. I will leave Humboldt.”
Bentley has received many letters that oppose the proposal.
“The letters I received are very supportive of the gallery,” Bentley said. “Letters from former students, community members who object the proposal very strongly.
Every summer, the Third Street Gallery hosts an exhibition of work from HSU art graduates.
All graduates who have a piece in the senior show get to show their work in the gallery. In the Third Street Gallery, students get exposure to the overall community off campus.
“Every summer we have a show dedicated for graduating seniors from the art department. They get off campus public exposure that they otherwise wouldn’t get,” Bentley said. “If this gallery closes, those type of exhibitions will simply be on campus and not available to the broader community.”
The proposal to close the gallery came as a surprise to Bentley. He learned about it by reading the list of proposed budget reductions.
“There’s been no outreach by any of these communities to the gallery,” Bentley said. “I learned about it by opening the proposal. This is how I learned about it.”
Godoy hopes the community comes together to help keep the gallery open as they did with the football program.
“I’m hoping that the community does that for us too,” Godoy said. “Hopefully, it all comes together well and we all fight together for it, and I’m hoping that we can keep it alive with the help of the community.”