The gallery is housed in Newcastle University, next door to Hatton Gallery, which is currently undergoing a £3.8 million redevelopment and will re-open in autumn 2017.
The proposed new title for the Ex-Libris Gallery references the artist Rita Donagh, who was a student of Newcastle University’s fine art department and also became a tutor there in 1962. She later married fellow artist Richard Hamilton, whom she met while teaching at the university.
Final year student Holly Argent, who started the petition, said: “Renaming the Ex-Libris Gallery RITA’s can go some way to celebrating neglected histories like that of female artists. RITA’s is an invisible history made visible. RITA’s is local. RITA’s is the female 70-80% of students on Newcastle University’s fine art course.”
Argent feels that the name will fit with the gallery’s aim to encourage critical enquiry, engage in the local arts scene and to spark conversation.
She explains: “The breadth of contexts and associations that the name RITA’s can bring makes it a fantastic name for the gallery. It reflects the interests of members of staff and students at Newcastle University, whose work aims to unveil those overshadowed or made invisible.”
The petition has already received over 100 signatures, with numerous comments referencing the importance of recognising the history of female artists.
Katy Bentham said: “Women make up the majority demographic of contemporary art courses yet we are under-represented both professionally and historically.”
Joanne Clement added: “We have an opportunity here to celebrate and value Newcastle’s female creative practitioners in a public facing, forward thinking way to create attitudinal change.”
Opened in 2005 in the former library of the original 1910 Fine Art building of Newcastle University, the Ex-Libris Gallery is a venue for exhibitions, test-site projects, conferences and other events.
To sign the petition, please visit: www.change.org/p/newcastle-university-fine-art-department-rename-the-ex-libris-gallery-rita-s