Arts & Culture Municipal Debate for Cornwall Ontario – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – Is the Glass Half Full or Half empty? October 21, 2010

Cornwall ON – An artist posted on facebook last night.

Just listened to politicians speak for 2 hours abouts arts and culture so why do I feel like going used car shopping

Well first off I want to give kudos the Library for hosting the debate.  It was and is needed.   Arts have been forgotten until recently by the City and the reason it’s becoming hot now is that they are realizing what many other municipalities have known for awhile and that’s Artists draw people.

Right now as Cornwall goes through this amazing and dynamic transition more people are scratching their head and realizing that Cornwall will need something to attract people to it; especially to the downtown core and waterfront.

It comes down to money.   Most of those speaking were incumbents.  Most were very positive and supportive.   But where were those voices over the last four years?   While agreeing to the 3+1 project who sat up in council and said ”  Well if I say yes to this how much will you all agree to for the arts?”

If the 3+1 is all about attracting people and money to Cornwall how does it compare to arts events?  Pretty poorly I imagine.   If all we needed for our hockey uses based on financial support from the community were two replacement rinks then surely the investment in this new facility was for other purposes?   This last council decided it was worth $35M +.

Could you imagine the power of attraction 10% of that would bring to this area if properly invested in arts?

I sat across from Scott Lecky one day and said now that you have your building why not embrace the arts in this area and raise some funding to splash the facility?  Look at the Bell Centre.  As you walk up you see Statues of the greats of yesteryear.

Why not have multimedia presentations, murals, photos, statues etc if you truly want to make the 3+1 a showcase?

The arts don’t require huge investment to make money for Cornwall.  They require some, but mostly governments need to nurture and allow an environment for them to thrive.

Create  venue opportunities at the Civic Complex or local establishment where the city will work with local promoters.  Create a common workspace for artists.     We started an initiative called “Art Court”  The concept was to have a spot where Artists can promote themselves and take advantage of our traffic.  Neither the city nor local organizations elected to sponsor it in part or whole.

How many musicians get a gig at a local bar with zero advertisement.   How will you grow them as artists and thus attractions if they don’t get the exposure?  You can’t have Graham Greer and The General Electryk play every gig and even they are under supported at many local appearances.

Government can help artists and businesses create “the buzz” that will make local artists an attraction to Cornwall.

You don’t have to spend millions to make magic in the arts.  Artists have been working lean and mean since day one as Councilor Elaine MacDonald shared about her own experiences.

Jeff Brunet has mentioned how he has to promote events in Ottawa because of the high costs of doing it Cornwall.  I’m glad Andre Rivette has spoken out about it this election, but this is not a new issue.

Lift – Off has been a success.   Waterfest was terrific for its first year.  Buskerville could be a huge success if it’s thought out better and expanded.   There are lots of opportunities if we as a city push for them.

One that is critical is the Port Theatre.   I was offered it for $90,000.    It is in its last gasps.  Roof work is desperate, and it may already be too late to save as the musty smells inside and chunks of missing plaster on the ceiling attest to.   But when the city can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a parking lot why not save one of the last landmarks of Cornwall?

Why not have Cornwall buy the building from the Port’s owner and lease him the theatre to run while repairs can be done to the structure and save what could be the home of part of a burgeoning  art scene until a new group can take over the building and project?

The building could eventually be renovated and divided so that it can be used for a few purposes more than it’s currently being used for.

You need vision. You need to think out of the box.  It’s wonderful that politicians are seeing the value in supporting art now, but it needs actions.

You need to plant seeds, nurture them, and then watch things happen.  You want people to come to Cornwall for the day or for their lives?   Invest in the arts and make things happen!

I know I’m willing to help make that happen, and I know that more people practice the arts in one medium or another than will ever use the 3+1 arena.

Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

KAV ProductionsEOTB


  1. There is more to arts and culture than painters, sculptors, and musicians. There is a thriving community of amateur thespians living within the City of Cornwall that volunteer their time and energy to entertain people merely for the enjoyment of either being on stage or working behind the scenes. It’s worth mentioning that many hold full time employment and volunteer evenings and weekends to perform their functions.

    I am currently volunteering as the director for Seaway Valley Theatre Company’s upcoming production of “Office Hours” by Norm Foster. In order to effectively produce a play such as this, a volunteer crew must be assembled. This crew is comprised of several roles including those of producer, director, stage manager, set construction, properties, costumes, set design and decoration, sound and lights, marketing and advertising, and of course, actors. Fortunately, the company has a dedicated group of people that can be counted on to fill these roles and their collaborative effort ensures that every aspect is taken care of and the best possible play is presented to the public.

    Producing plays for the public does not come without its share of hurdles. Since the official closing of Glen Productions and its accompanying theatre, it has become increasingly difficult to find a suitable venue in order to hold meetings, rehearse, build sets, and ultimately present our work. Community theatre organizations have been forced to become nomads, of sorts, with each play being presented at a different location while the actual rehearsals may take place at yet another location. In the case of SVTC, sets are also constructed in a small garage, disassembled, moved, and reassembled in the venue only when the venue owner permits.

    Community theatre is an essential part of arts and culture. As a community theatre enthusiast, I urge the Cornwall City Council, arts and culture departments and committees, business, and investors to consult with and include all community theatre groups in arts and culture endeavours now and into the future. Only when all voices have been heard can a clear path for opportunity and growth be paved.

  2. Well said, Michael! Our artistic community is alive! It is a good thing that most of us are innovative thinkers. We spend far too much time working on the logistics of our nomadic existence. We have been very fortunate that our theatre audiences have followed from place to place. A thriving artistic community means a vibrant community.

  3. Would love to hear what our Community thespians thought of the meeting at the Library. Was it informative? Did you have a chance to express your concerns?

  4. I was unable to attend the debate, but have had several discussions about the need to find funding for the arts in our city.

    I am an artist, a supporter of the arts in Cornwall and a member of this community who uses the existing hockey arenas and is looking very forward to the new facilities that this city will soon have.

    While I hear what you are saying, that when you look at the amounts of money raised for the multi pad facility, that there seems to be an inherent unfairness in terms of the support that the arts ( all arts ) receives in the city…I think we need to step away from the comparison. It is a story that has been told too many times and only plays into a “woe is the arts” mentality.

    The multi pad facility will bring money to the city. This is a terrific thing and kiudos to the team of people that came together and made it happen.

    Now, can we as a community now get together with the same enthusiasm and learn from their success? Let’s pat ourselves on the back for a job well done for the Benson Centre and take that momentum and move forward with positive and inovative fundraising ideas for an arts centre in the city.

    But, please, let’s move on from negative comparisons between an arts and non-arts community. Cornwall is a multi faceted community, one that can support both an facility to provide a healthy sports environment AND a centre to showcase the creativity and wealth of talent that is also found here.

    In our home? We support the arts and sports. They both enrich our lives. Let’s make the same happen for Cornwall.

    An arts centre is essential to our city. I love the idea of incorporating an arts element into existing venues, but I also look forward to a centre that provides services and a venue for all the arts and is accessible to our entire community.

  5. I think it’s grand and alll that but would it be possible to make an angel investment fun from pooled investors and take a part in making these smaller companies viable. Times r hard nowadays
    and if i had any resources i would rather make an investment in my community than with some bank
    or mutualfund. it is how community is supposed to work. returns r usually better and u could create
    a nonprofit fund. for instance cafe connectionz is another small biz that supports the arts and soon they will fall by the wayside as just another segmant in cornwall arts history good luck guys

  6. Your ideas about the Port Theatre are excellent, wonder if anything has been done about it or does it continue in its state of disrepair. Is there no Historical Society watchdog group in this city?

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