AMS Student Council Minutes // February 8, 2017 // p. 65

President Ava Naisiri pitches the idea of an Art Collection referendum in the latter half of a presentation on proposed referenda and bylaw changes that would be part of the upcoming election in March.

Referenda and Bylaws 2017 presentation // Presented February 8th, 2017 // pg. 26-27

Here, the cost of the collection is brought up as the first point once more. Ava emphasizes that the art should be “respected”, and a sale will allow this to happen. The money is promised towards “future investments in art”, “supporting art initiatives”, and even bringing back an artist in residence program.

The question period that follows the presentation has just one question about the proposal, concerning the need to go to referendum again. There is no sign of debate on the actual concept of a sale, as the conversation seemed quite heated about other governance proposals.

AMS Student Council Minutes // February 15th, 2017 // Pg. 94

At the next meeting, managing director Keith Hester mentions that he is already meeting with insurance brokers and discussing the art sale (despite the election still being a few weeks away). He also says that four artworks are being considered rather than three as proposed by Ava in the last meeting.

AMS Student Council Minutes // February 15th, 2017 // pg. 95
AMS Student Council Minutes // February 15th, 2017 // pg. 97

A change is made to the wording of the referendum question, shifting from the proceeds going to a dedicated “AMS Arts Endowment Fund” to the general AMS endowment instead, and the interest from the sale being used to fund projects through the Hatch. This creates less complications for the AMS, but it leaves some questions about how transparent this money-moving process will be. The value of the collection is also added to the collection to the question as well (although it has suspiciously shifted from 4.5 million to 4 million).

The final wording of the referendum is approved by council as follows:

AMS Student Council Minutes // February 15th, 2017 // pg. 102

The council also adopts an official “yes” position on the question, and campaigning begins.

AMS Student Council Minutes // February 15th, 2017 // pg. 102-103

(if no other group is the champion, what does this say about the motivations for the sale?)

The Ubyssey // March 6th, 2017 // pg. 21

In the campaign for the election the Ubyssey publishes a guide to the referendum questions, and interviews VP Admin Chris Scott about the art sale. Chris says the most expensive pieces will be the ones to go (which ones? Only the E.J Hughes piece is mentioned). The change in timeframe is explained as preventing a “problematic” situation where art shouldn’t be sold at the wrong time, as the market changes. This seems suspicious given that it seems like the 2012 sale failed because the committee had proved it to be unfeasible. An art rental program is invoked, and there is no sense of urgency towards any sale in this snippet.

Referendum VOTE YES Campaign // AMS Website // Archived March 7th, 2017

The AMS website at the time has an “Art Gallery Sale FAQ” (you mean art collection?) section as part of the “Vote Yes” campaign. Here, the time limit issue is invoked once again, now with the addition of a “committee of specialists” (what kind of specialists?) that would ensure maximum profit.

Several promises for the revenue are made:

  1. An artist in residence each term
  2. A partnership grant to fund initiatives that bring students into The Hatch for events with student groups
  3. Funding to commission student artists to create public art for the Nest.

Compared to the 2012 promises, a noticeable omission is no mention of future acquisitions (although perhaps the student-made public art could be considered as part of the collection).

The last point made here makes it seem like the AMS knows precisely which works to sell, although the names of the pieces are not published.

Mary Buckland // Ubyssey // March 10th, 2017

Hatch Gallery technician Mary Buckland writes a published letter to the Ubyssey criticizing the campaign, citing a mass email and website with wildly vague and disparate information about the referendum question. Mary has a sort of prophetic wisdom in reading this vagueness as “the average student won’t reap any benefit from the art sales.”



Results – 2017 – March – AMS General Election and Referendum // AMS elections

In a very similar margin to the 2012 referendum, the 2017 Art Sale referendum passes with flying colours. 20.7% of electors voted in this election generally, but only 17.3% voted in for this specific referendum question. (As a side note, this is the same election that UBC students voted in the Engineering Cairn as their next president, but in a boring twist guy who was behind it all just became the next president and wasn’t very exciting)

The AMS now has approval to sell up to 4 artworks within an unlimited timeline, with a stipulation that the interest from the money raised will go towards “programming and initiatives” as part of the Hatch gallery.

TThe way the 2017 referendum was passed was similar to the one in 2012; there was little context or transparency in explaining the collection and the idea to sell it to the student body. This time, Ava Naisiri seems to pitch the idea, and is supported right off the bat by Managing Director Keith Hester. Big promises were made (once again), and doubt was expressed in the AMS' intentions (once again). In parallel with 2012, the decision to push the referendum seemed to come only from a financial angle rather than anything else, with all of the arguments towards the sale being made on economic terms. Compared with 2012, the idea of selling art seemed a lot less debated in Council, and the details of how a sale would occur seemed even more abstract. The conclusions of the 2012 Art Collection Committee did not seem to be called upon, and that entire debacle seems to have been largely forgotten. This makes sense as everyone involved in 2012 would have graduated and moved on with their lives. Despite this, the ramifications of the 2017 referendum are major because of it's unlimited time-frame, meaning the AMS holds authority to sell art to the time of writing (2021).