The University of Lethbridge is renowned for its excellent art collection. People on campus and throughout the city take pride in knowing that a wonderfully diverse range of art work is housed here. The high profile of the collection also means that there are many rumours that circulate about it. One of my favourites is that the collection is stored in a vault under the lake. Given that it is important to maintain constant humidity and avoid catastrophic damage, why would we store a collection of art under a body of water? This kind of outlandish story does not concern me because it adds to the interest in the art collection, but I am concerned when I hear that people think the collection is inaccessible and people are not able to see and engage with the works. The truth is quite the opposite: the U of L Art Gallery has a remarkable record of providing access to the collection with our innovative on-line database; supporting class visits and other tours – 2486 participants in 48 different events; 72 works loaned to other galleries in 2011 including to Paris and New York; touring our own exhibitions; and including 103 works from the collection in our exhibitions on campus last year.
There are many ways that the art collection plays an active role for people on campus and in the local community. In order to help make these connections more visible, and to encourage new routes of access, Josephine Mills started the art + people = x series in 2009. An idea that grew from an interest in supporting research by local artists and at the same time creating a project that would allow the broader public to have a sense of the importance that public art collections play in generating ideas and sparking artist’s creative practice.