Su Ying Strang | Top 40 Under 40 2018
photograph by jared sych at strang's home; HAIR AND MAKEUP BY TAMSYN GAGNE, KIRA GREGORY, AMY MAETCHE AND MICHELLE ST. CROIX (ARTISTS WITHIN). The Art Featured on the wall is "WILDFLOWERS OF MANITOBA" BY NOAM GONICK & LUIS JACOB, COURTESY OF THE ILLINGWORTH KERR GALLERY.
Job title: Executive Director, The New Gallery
Why she’s a 2018 Top 40 Under 40:
Su Ying Strang has revived The New Gallery, a local non-profit artist-run centre that was struggling financially, taking it from a deficit to budget surplus in just two fiscal years.
Su Ying Strang marries a passion for the arts with the numbers savvy of a CFO. An American expat, Strang’s interest in Canada’s art system inspired her to apply to colleges north of the border, which is how she came to the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2006. In her final semester, Strang had an internship with The New Gallery (TNG), a charitable, non-commercial, artist-run centre established in 1975. She continued to volunteer after she graduated in 2010, was hired as TNG’s administrative director in 2012 and named executive director in 2015.
When Strang was hired, TNG was running a nine-per cent annual operating deficit, putting it close to being flagged by municipal funders as unsustainable. Within one fiscal year of being hired, she decreased the deficit to three per cent and posted a three-per cent surplus by the end of the following year. Strang has increased TNG’s municipal funding by 8.45 per cent ($3,000), its provincial funding by 35.9 per cent ($10,193) and federal funding by 37.5 per cent ($15,000) and established the organization’s first endowment fund.
In addition to balancing the books, Strang oversaw the process of finding and moving TNG into its new and recently renovated home in Chinatown after it lost its former space in Art Central when the building was demolished. In a nod to its cultural milieu, the gallery translates its exhibition texts into Cantonese and runs tours in Cantonese and Mandarin for seniors in the community.
Strang’s work at TNG stems from her belief in the artist-run centre model: non-commercial ventures where artists serve to direct the work. She is the president of the Alberta Association of Artist-run Centres and captained its successful bid to hold the national biennial artist-run centre conference in the province in 2020. She is also an advocate for critical writing in the arts and initiated an art-writing group residency in 2015.
Her acumen for arts administration led to her being one of only 19 participants (the only representative from Calgary) selected for the Banff Centre’s new Cultural Leadership Program to nurture the next generation of arts leaders in the country. This past September, she was newly appointed to Glenbow’s board of governors and last month received an alumni award from ACAD.
Strang jokes that her persistence and optimism comes from her being a Capricorn, but on a more serious note, she attributes her work ethic to the way she was raised. “One of the things [my parents] instilled in me is that there’s not necessarily one straight linear path,” she says. “If you persevere, if you work hard, if you enlist the help of your family, your friends, your colleagues, you can always find your way.” —Shelley Arnusch