By Fiona Moran
At the bottom of the staircase on the Wabash side of the Auditorium building, new crisp lettering marked the door of the Gage Gallery’s new location. Scores of people gathered around the adorned appetizers tables and mingle, while others walked around the brightly lit displays on the walls. Pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and the other marchers in the Selma to Montgomery March line the walls in strips of black and white photo film, snapshots in time showcasing the in-between moments of history.
The Gage Gallery has moved from the Gage building to the first floor of the Auditorium building on the Wabash side, where the university bookstore used to be before the Wabash building was built in 2012, and is now open to the public.
The gallery opened on Oct. 11 with a celebration and the first viewing of the fall exhibition: the photographs of Steve Schapiro, an internationally renowned magazine photographer most famous for his pictures of Civil Rights Era events and icons. Since Roosevelt is selling the Gage building, the gallery needed a new home. Professor Mike Ensdorf led the project along with the Physical Resources staff to turn the former bookstore into an art and community space.
Steve Schapiro, a small, unassuming man of 84, joined the crowd in looking at the photographs. After an official photograph with President Malekzadeh and being thanked in organizers and faculty speeches, Schapiro mingled with attendees and answered questions about the photographs.
Schapiro said that he met Ensdorf through Roosevelt’s event organizers working with the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The exhibition, titled “Civil Rights Era Contact Sheets,” is a companion exhibition with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and will be at the new Gage Gallery until Dec. 22.
“I was on assignment for Life magazine when I took this one,” Schapiro said. He pointed out one of his famous photos from the reels, of the Selma March coming into Montgomery, Al. The famous photos are interspersed next to the other photos in the film tape that he took that day, Schapiro explained.
“The agency I was with put them into folders, and I really didn’t really look at them until about 4 years ago. There’s a lot of pictures like this one…,” Schapiro said as he pointed to a photo in the bottom left corner of the display panel. It’s a picture of the Selma march entering Montgomery, with white onlookers on a balcony over a group of black marchers. “…that never went public before last year…A lot of people looked at the pictures, a lot of editors looked at the pictures, and yet no one’s ever printed that one. It’s a very good photo,” Schapiro said.
Dr. Michael Ford, chief of staff to President Malekzadeh, helped coordinate with Ensdorf in order to transform the space into the new Gage Gallery. In between being the universities old bookstore and becoming the Gage Gallery, the space was used as a rehearsal space for CCPA orchestra students. Therefore, Dr. Ford said, the designers and builders made sure to keep the room acoustically sound in order for CCPA rehearsals to still take place in the room.
“So this is a dual purpose space. So, not only do we have a great space for our students to practice and rehearse in. We also have a great community center, if you will, in the gallery. And we also have a great space for all kinds of events and activities, for faculty, staff and students,” Dr. Ford said. Ford also mentioned plans to put video screens in the windows outside the gallery to advertise the gallery and its events.
Professor Ensdorf shook hands and chatted with the crowd throughout the show.
“I’m tired,” he said with an exhausted laugh, after he said that it took about two years of planning start to finish to make the event happen.
In his speech, he thanked everyone involved with the project, and made the comment that the audience is not just seeing the “hero images,” but the, “progression of images and where Steve was looking,” in the gallery’s displays.
Ian Jackson, a junior year journalism major said, “I really like the event so far…knowing that these are like unseen photos that no one has seen before, makes it a really enticing situation for everyone to come and see them…And also knowing how like looking at these photos makes you feel like you’re in the exact same like era…really thrilling.”