The end of an era: history of the Gallery

On March 13, amongst cheers of “Phi Delt! Phi Delt!” and a shower of champagne and beer, Aaron Bailey was elected as the 106th AMS president.

The Gallery, packed with cheering friends, frat brothers and Ubyssey staff, played host to yet another AMS elections announcement and celebration -- a tradition with an unknown beginning.

“It was never a designated thing, it was just something, it was like Pit Wednesdays -- nobody ever decided that we will make our Wednesday nights the big night on campus, it just happens,” said Nancy Toogood, former AMS food and beverage manager.

The AMS elections announcement is just one of many different events hosted at the Gallery throughout its lifetime in the SUB. However, after almost 36 years, the Gallery will close its doors permanently on April 10.

The history of the Gallery goes back to 1979, where, for the first week of classes, the Student Administration Commission (SAC) turned the SUB Art Gallery into a temporary lounge. The gallery was located in the space where the current Gallery Lounge is located and the temporary arrangement was originally pitched as a coffee shop, but predominantly served as a cocktail lounge.

The temporary lounge, dubbed the Art Gallery Lounge, was so popular that the AMS brought the lounge back, again on a temporary basis, in 1980 and 1981. In 1981, the lounge lasted for the first two months of class and was known solely as the Gallery Lounge.

The art gallery programs committee and the fine arts department were opposed to converting the original art gallery into a lounge, fearing smoke damage to the art and lose of a space for students to share their art, eventually opting to form its own space in its current location next to the SUB conversation pit in the mid 1980s.

Students outside of the fine arts department felt differently about the matter. In the March 13, 1980’s issue of The Ubyssey Merike Talve wrote “The student gallery is being used by a minority of students. The space should be a lounge. We need a lounge…. I mean, you people can still put art up on the walls.” At the time, Talve was a second-year art history student.

Talve and many other students had their wishes granted in May of 1982, when the Gallery Lounge reappeared, and again on June 2 when the AMS voted to permanently change the art gallery into a lounge -- changing the social landscape of the SUB for years to come.

The Gallery existed as it was until 2012 when it merged with the Pendulum -- an AMS owned and operated restaurant that focused on local and sustainable services.

“The Gallery used to be phenomenally popular … but the Gallery was getting a little bit out of hand with a little bit of overcrowding and … a little bit of noncompliance, so we needed to get a handle on that,” said Toogood. Toogood retired in January after almost 25 years with the AMS.

The rowdy behaviour didn’t start during Toogood’s time in the 1990s, but in the Gallery’s early years. In 1982, while performing, guitarist David McKay leaned forward off the stage, falling and landing on three Lutheran ministers. While the ministers only suffered minor injuries, McKay was more seriously injured and sought compensation from the university and the AMS.

In 2007, The Ubyssey reported on a large brawl that broke out in the Gallery for no discernible reason on February 16. The fisticuffs involved approximately 30 individuals, according to AMS security staff. The fight had escalated to the point of individuals throwing rocks and beer bottles.

Then AMS President Jeff Friedrich said “my understanding was that it was a big fight. These things happen I guess.” The article noted that only one individual was arrested.

In 2012, when the construction of the Nest began, Toogood and the AMS were surprised to learn that the Pendulum would not only lose its patio but its whole space. The knuckle point that connects the new and old SUB, beside the Pit, is where the Pendulum used to reside.

The Pendulum was a student favourite, often full of people studying and eating.

“It was kind of, I think, one of the first places on campus where students really felt that it was their place,” said Toogood.

To keep with the spirit of providing local, sustainable food options and to calm the Gallery, the AMS merged the Pendulum’s menu with the lounge -- creating the Gallery as students know it today.

The feeling of having a space of their own was mirrored in the new Gallery’s open and welcoming environment. After the 2012 renovations to include the Pendulum’s food menu, the Gallery got rid of the black walls and silver railings, opting for a lighter, cozier feel.

“I think it's like a living room, like if UBC’s your home this is your living room. Like you come for food [and] you just sit down, it's so cozy, old couches, old tables, everything's very ... homey. It's our place,” said current AMS VP Finance Mateusz Miadlikowski.

Miadlikowski worked as a bartender for the Pit and the Gallery for two years before stepping down to take the position of VP finance. He still visits the Gallery regularly.

After the Gallery and the Pendulum merged, the atmosphere in the lounge changed -- adjusting to the interests of students.

“It was a cozy place but it was really ... weird,” said Miadlikowski on the pre-2012 Gallery. “Then the Gallery became the Gallery as we know it and everything changed a little bit more towards the cozy side. So I think it was a great change because it’s more chill, it’s a very relaxed atmosphere.”

The Gallery, much like other AMS businesses, suffered from an identity crisis prior to the merge with the Pendulum, a result of a shifting collective student mentality. Miadlikowski noted that in comparison to when he started at UBC in 2010, the Pit and the Gallery seemed dead. Toogood said that student drinking culture changed as the students’ focus shifted to academics. She also noted that student’s food and beverage tastes have changed.

“Students have become a lot more sophisticated. They’re more interested in food and drink, and microbrews and microbreweries and cottage industries and craft beers and all of those sorts of things; their tastes and level of sophistication in what they want…. I think all of these things is just a sign of the times,” said Toogood. The current SUB does not offer options for student’s changing tastes -- a problem the AMS hopes to solve in the Nest with businesses like the Perch and the modernized Pit Pub.

“I was thinking everybody’s like 'let’s save the Gallery,' but then you can’t move all the couches that are falling apart … you cannot move it to the new SUB. The new Pit is the attempt to bring the coziness as well and combine it with the more modern ideas,” said Miadlikowski.

The Gallery, though closing permanently, will be fondly remembered by current and past UBC students.

“It was the perfect place to just grab a pitcher, sit down on a couch and work on something and then friends would pop by, I knew I was going to bump into someone,” said Jonathan Elmer, a fifth-year unclassified student. “I’m going to be curious to see what Captain R.J. ends up doing on Tuesdays now … he’s a very serious karaoke guy.”

Toogood and Miadlikowski echoed that while the Gallery, and older institutions found in the old SUB, will be closing soon, the AMS intends to adapt to changing student tastes with the Nest and the new AMS businesses.

“It is the end of an era. It’s the beginning of a great new beginning, but it’s the end of an era and I think there’s a little bit of a bittersweet nostalgia for many students and I hope that they fondly wish farewell to the old SUB and then embrace the new building, the Nest, as well,” said Toogood.