The main atrium of UW Madison’s Art Lofts building, tucked behind the Kohl Center already boasts a well-sized, light-filled gallery. A solid, roll-away partition was replaced with tall glass doors last summer, allowing full view of the art on display as one enters the building’s main doors. Moving walls inside the space can create dimensionality and distinction in the space, or be removed to create a sense of openness.
But if you pass the Lofts gallery and the infinitesimal but well-curated Gelsy Verna Project Space, you’ll see a series of paw prints on the concrete floors. They wend back through hallways of graduate students’ and professors’ studios, past restrooms, vending machines, and classrooms, ultimately leading to a new gallery space that is, for now, aptly called the Backspace.
Doug Rosenberg, a professor of video, performance, and installation art, became UW’s Art Department chair about four years ago, at which time he became aware of an old, underused loading dock in the belly of the Lofts. “[It] was filled with old furniture and other junk, but was an artist’s dream space,” Rosenberg says. “It seemed a perfect space to rehab for our department, so with a lot of help from the Dean’s office and other campus partners, as well as faculty in the Art Department, we were able to turn it into the space you see today.”
Backspace is a bright, well-lit room, with crisp, white walls 23 feet high and nearly 50 feet long on one side, and two garage doors on the other. The floor is polished concrete and reflects the fluorescent lights above. The main is preceded by a small foyer, which can serve as either a gathering place for guests to talk and enjoy snacks and drinks, or host part of the exhibit itself.