Gage Gallery to highlight, showcase juvenile prison life
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 18:09
The university is again using documentary photography to showcase the plight of the inmate.
Juvenile-in-Justice, an exhibit by Richard Ross, opens at Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery on September 13. The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation (MISJT) is presenting the exhibit. It continues the gallery’s theme of focusing on the incarceration of American juveniles, bordering on a population of approximately 90,000 inmates.
“We’ve wanted to have Ross in the gallery for a long time, but we didn’t know the best way of doing it,” said Gage Gallery Director Michael Ensdorf. “He’s a very well known photographer who generally shows in big museums.”
Nancy Michaels, MISJT project coordinator, suggested Ross’s show to Ensdorf. Ross formed his show specifically for the smaller scale of the gallery. The exhibit will include educational printed material alongside the photographs.
This year, the gallery was slightly affected by university budget cuts. However, Ensdorf said that the effect is small, as the gallery usually must rely on partnerships and sponsorships to operate. The university covers the gallery’s overhead, but the gallery must pay for installations, some marketing and different specific elements for each show.
“In a way, the budget cut affected me, but my budget is so small to begin with, it’s not like we went from a $50,000 budget to a $10,000 budget,” Ensdorf said. “We went down a very small amount.”
Ensdorf wants to do work in the future to receive more grants from outside foundations.
“We’re not alone in dealing with budgets,” he said. “We’ve been lucky that the university thinks highly of what we do and lets us keep doing it. Eventually, we’ll get back in some way to another funding state. Things find a way of working out.”
The gallery is currently booked with exhibits through Spring 2014. The Spring 2013 show is expected to be Edmund Clark’s Guantanamo exhibit.
“That will be our last prison show for a long time,” Ensdorf said. “The opportunities to show photographers like Ross and Clark outweigh any thematic redundancy, though. There’s no way we’d say no to these two artists because we had some prison shows last year.”
The gallery has received an array of press coverage, including TimeOut Chicago, WBEZ, WTTW, Chicago Reader, WBBM, Daily Herald and New York Times. The Chicago Tribune is also expected to cover the gallery this week.
“At our opening receptions, when we have lectures, the audience is really unpredictable,” Ensdorf said. “Sometimes people come to our openings because they expect something that’s edgier than just an artist talking about their work. Ross clearly has something under his belt here in terms of the subject matter.”
Guy Patterson is Gage Gallery assistant and a senior majoring in international studies.
“People need to learn about the industry of detention through media like documentary photography with a dialogue with artists and with people in the system,” he said. “People should come out...to see this because there’s something wrong, and awareness is one of the first steps in fixing a problem.”
“People can leave with a greater or corrected understanding of what exists in the world,” Ensdorf added. “The best thing for me is that people come into the gallery and have a dialogue with the work either privately or socially.”
MISJT will continue its programming at the gallery throughout the year.
“For most of our shows, there’s no way you can leave without being moved in some way,” Ensdorf said. “That’s the opposite of pretty pictures.”
The Gage Gallery is located at 18 S. Michigan Avenue and is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.
Plan on attending Juvenile-in-Justice? Check it out, then tweet and tell @RUTORCH your thoughts.