May 19th, 2024

Southern Alberta Art Gallery ready to welcome new director

By Al Beeber on November 11, 2021.

photo by Nicole Kelly Westman - Su Ying Strang is set to become the new executive director at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.


After an extensive search, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery has a new executive director.
Su Ying Strang, who has spent the last nine years at the New Gallery in Calgary, will begin transitioning into her new role at SAAG this month before taking on full-time duties on Jan. 3.
Strang, a visual artist and cultural worker, has spent a decade working in the not-for-profit arts sector. She is on the Board of Governors of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, serving as chair of its governance committee and co-chair of the museum’s anti-racism and equity committee.
She has also lectured, presented workshops and developed public programs for organizations across the country .
In 2018, she was named one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40 by Avenue Magazine and was given the Alumni Horizon Award from the Alberta University of the Arts in the same year.
Melissa Arseniuk, board chair of SAAG, said this week, Strang “is a star.”
SAAG employed a firm out of Calgary to help with the search and utilized hiriing committees to ensure the best candidate was hired. It also an extensive vetting process.
“The board really wanted to make sure the process was comprehensive and inclusive and transparent so we engaged an external firm to assist,” said Arseniuk.
“We posted the job far and wide in a variety of arts and culture sector job boards in addition to more traditional job boards,” she added.
“We had quite a robust field choose from” with a few dozen applicants interested in the position, said Arseniuk.
“The board had a hiring committee and we kind of narrowed down the applicants from there” then conducted Zoom interviews, she said.
SAAG then employed an external hiring committee consisting of people from the Lethbridge School Division, the Galt Museum, the City, the University of Lethbridge and Allied Arts Council, said Arseniuk.
Those people also did interviews and “then the successful applicant came to Lethbridge and participated in a day-long interview and conversation” with the external hiring committee and full board of the gallery, said Arseniuk.
“Then the external firm out of Calgary really took over and conducted a robust background check, criminal check, social media scans and you name it, which took quite awhile. We weren’t expecting any skeletons to come out of the closet but we just wanted to make sure that absolutely this candidate was fully vetted and indeed she is,” said Arseniuk.
“We’re very very excited Su Ying will be joining us,” she said.
“Her application was very very strong and right through the process, she was a very engaging, warm, articulate and I would say, sophisticated candidate. She truly understands the nature of the job and the amount of work that lies ahead and what’s required of her. But she’s meeting it head-on with open eyes and open arms,” Arseniuk said.
“We feel she is an extremely good fit for the organization and the community,” Arseniuk added.
“This is a very pivotal time for the gallery and that’s why this hire was so important to get right. The board made the decision to make a change with the gallery’s leadership about a year ago, in November of 2020. And we realized we needed to make a change there. . .now fast forward a year we have the right person in the job to do what needs to be done,’ said Arseniuk.
The new director’s first assignment will be looking at the role SAAG currently plays in the community, Arseniuk said.
“We, the board, identified some weaknesses that had to be overcome,” Arseniuk said.
“The gallery has gone through a few periods of transition and challenge but for us, the board is looking at the current status as an opportunity. We kind of embraced COVID as an opportunity to hit the reset button and refocus and figure out what it is the gallery can offer the community, how the gallery can best serve the community and go from there.”
On Nov. 25, the new director will be making an appearance at the SAAG Social that runs at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for the event where people will get a chance to meet her. Hosted by the SAAG board, the event will give the gallery a chance to reengage the community. It will offer a sneak peak at upcoming exhibitions in a night with live entertainment, food, beverages and a raffle of curated experience packages.
“The gallery is a cultural institution, it’s a building the city refers to internally as the jewel of downtown and in recent years, the institution has been frankly inward focused as opposed to outward focused and over the last year, the board has gone out of its way to make the necessary changes to make sure we’re outward focused and engaged in welcoming people, a broad section of the community, in,” she said.
“Su Ying is the right person to lead the organization and focus on that operational and fiscal sustainability,” Arseniuk said.

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