Is it time to pull Sylvie Lizotte & the Cornwall Gallery’s City Funding? by Jamie Gilcig

CFN –   Oops!   She did it again!   Cornwall Regional Art Gallery director Sylvie Lizotte failed again for the second year in a row to submit the funding request to City Hall before the official deadline.   The one that essentially covers her salary with a bit extra to cover some bits and bobs.


The gallery along with other entities seeking their pound of flesh from taxpayers such the Library, Woodhouse Museum, and some other cultural groups were vying for a bit over $500K  per year.   Compared to the cost of paying off the Benson Centre its not much, but surely you’d think something as important as an application of that nature would be handed in on time?

I spoke with City Councilor Denis Carr about this subject today and he was quite concerned.   He specifically suggested that it was important to find out why the application was late?

He also thought it was odd that Ms. Lizotte would present instead of the Chair of her Board as he was terribly impressed by the presentation that Brian Schofield had made previously.

However Mr. Schofield is no longer the chair.  Ms Lizotte seems to have an issue keeping board members and staff on hand as she also lost her right hand man Vince Pilon.

We investigated Canada Revenue tax records that were available online  and found some information about CRAG (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) and for a group that’s raised nearly $1 Million dollars according to documents filed by Ms Lizotte their profits were less than $100K.

Further more “the collection” that she filed on those same records is claimed to be worth over $750K but when I spoke with Ms Lizotte she said that none of the works have ever been sold nor exhibited to earn revenue.

She also complained about that darned Revenue Canada changing rules about “donations” which resulted in the collection being built.   I queried her about the collection as surely something of that value would require an insurance  rider, but she said that they had no such thing.  Furthermore she confirmed that some of the collection were simply photographs.

When asked if those photographs included the negatives or reproduction rights she confirmed that  no, they were just photographic prints.

Now there are many well meaning people at city council and as we’re seeing Arts and Culture are now no longer pariah like words in Cornwall; but surely if the city wants to dish out the cash there should be some accountability and a city funded art gallery should truly serve all of the art community and not just a wee clique?   Especially with organizations like the Community Action Group to not raise taxes this year while the city is mumbling about a 2-4% raise.

Ms Lizotte, while generous with her time on the phone declined to be interviewed on camera.

Personally this scribbler thinks it’s time to support Arts and Artists more in this community; much more than art gallery managers who can’t be bothered to get funding applications in on time.   Imagine if the $60 or $70K were banked for a few years to create a real fund for artists or to help fund an Arts Centre?  With mortgage on a $1M property just around $6K per year that funding could support an actual art centre…

And speaking of an Art Centre isn’t it time to realize that the days of needing thousands of square feet of valuable downtown space for books is at an end?   Our public library would make an amazing space.   Instead of just showing free movies and being the place to get free internet service while supporting a whack of salaries surely this amazing building could be used to house both a smaller library that focuses more on the services that the public is demanding and support more arts activities?

Cornwall council was very clear last year that those who ask for money had to find new sources and prove to council that they had done so.   For council to extend a deadline to Sylvie Lizotte is not fair dinkum.    For the city of Cornwall to keep pumping public dollars into her purse without accountability (like that $30K Lift Off loan) should not be supported either.

Of course I could be completely wrong!

What do you think Cornwallites?  You can post your comments below.

(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 this site, their staff, or sponsors.)


  1. The reason why she keeps losing her people is because if it’s not her way it’s the HWY and also if she’s not in the lime light well you are no longer her best friend… Maybe the city should look into her personal finances… maybe there is a 2nd bank account that no one is aware of?

    I fully agree that she has been there to long… she treats anyone that helps her or the gallery like dog meat.

  2. It is my understanding that most associations and organizations, government or otherwise that have funds available for projects, shows etc. have a specific criteria to be met and all the information must be received by a specific date. If you miss the deadline you miss out on the money, PERIOD. If The Cornwall Regional Art Gallery, their Board of Directors and Ms. Lizotte have missed the deadline for a second year in a row, what does that say about the management of this organization? I believe it is time for The City of Cornwall, to make it clear that a deadline is a deadline and The City of Cornwall will be happy to review their application next year.

  3. Wow….shocking….Cornwall pays for that!! the drawings were peeling off the wall in the front window for weeks… some are actually on the floor!! Unbelievable….I would never EVER bring my art into a hole like that. There appears to be no respect for artwork or the artist if this is how the works are treated. A friends sculpture broke, no compensation, explanation or apology. I have visited the “gallery” once, only once in my 4 years living here. I was ignored by all 3 staff. i pointed out a piece that was being damaged from sitting on a small dollar store stand, the stand was poking through the canvas..still no comment….honestly…what does she get paid for! What an embarrassment….and in the city centre! That gallery needs an enema!

  4. Yes it is time for her, and that thing she calls an art gallery, to go. It is an embarrassment to the city and an eyesore to boot. In fact ALL of the so called “arts” locales and committees in the town need to go. This is not Montreal or Ottawa. People need to stop making this town bigger than it is. If the people in town only knew how other cities laugh at how big Cornwall tries to make itself through its arts.
    “Wait…wait…some kids are singing and dancing to ‘Ring around the Rosie’, call the press and all the media (front page), woooohoooo Cornwall has arts.”

  5. I would think that if council disburse public funds to local not for profits and charities, and in many cases the council is the organizations single biggest funder, they have a fiduciary duty to request either audited financial statements of said organization, or to send in external auditors to ensure good management of public funds.

    The federal government will do that with charities and not for profits so why not local government.

    Based on what I read, with the revenue stream there would be no reason to require the council to fund this group. They should me more than self sufficient on their own with all that income that has came in.

  6. Author

    Council has pulled the funding for CRAG for the first quarter of 2013. I’m wondering if this means that there now is a new deadline for other agencies to apply too? Will one agency get a “perk” that others don’t?

    Surely this is a reflection of not only Ms Lizotte’s failure, but that of her board too and its President as well?

  7. I disagree with Dennis Jaciw more arts are needed as the Arts bring the tourists the problem is as with many things in Cornwall the management of the money that is going to the Arts. As Stephen indicated money coming from the tax payers must be managed properly and accountability is not optional.

    Accountability of the Cornwall Gallery has never been expected by the powers that be, neither the City or the Board of the Gallery so why would that change now? The City should put their foot down and demand that the Gallery fire their “Executive Gallery Manager” who by the way is also the Treasurer (a conflict of interest if there ever was one; the person managing the money is also the only paid employee) and show exactly why they require the City funds when there are many Provincial and Federal grants available, as well as the funds they are raising from the local Bingo to pay for the running of the gallery.

  8. too many people asleep at the wheel. very reckless.

    how long has Ms. L. been in charge of CRAG now TAG? And how did she come to be there?

    really like the ideas you’ve presented about rethinking the library.

  9. @ Naturally Frustrated. i too went there one day (was the only person there) and was also completely ignored. in fact, my goal was to find out how tourists or first-time visitors might be received. found out pretty fast. wouldn’t want my work in there either.

  10. @Dennis Jaciw…Arts & Culture is for all peoples and all communities regardless of size. The Arts is an avenue for learning, expression and growth. Everyone, everywhere deserves this. There have been improvements at the Gallery over the last couple of years. That being said, when application deadlines for city funding are missed two years in a row and when visitors to the gallery are not even given the courtesy of a “Hello”, the people and procedures employed by this operation need serious examination and overhaul. If any of the Municipal people who make decisions regarding funding for The Gallery would like to further discuss/question my above comments; I will make the time to do so. Simply contact Jamie for my contact details. Thank you.

  11. Personally, I think that Sylvie Lizotte has some very good skills and I’ve invariably appreciated all the showings and other events I’ve been to at the Cornwall Regional Arts Gallery. However, she seems very much on our own. As a community, we need to become more mature at addressing our problems constructively and respectfully without descending into disparaging remarks. If there are improvements to be made, we have to look at not only the end result, but also the the structure and functioning of our processes.

  12. Also Frustrated =
    Using the term Conflict Of Interest in our city is something to shy away from it’s not because your not 100 % right which I believe you to be it’s just that there are those who claim not to know or understand what their responsibilities are re Conflict Of Interest yet they completely ignore those responsibilities it’s sad .

  13. TIME TO PULL THE PLUG? After a 20 year reign… it’s long overdue.

    All of this should come as no surprise. Every year, it’s the same old song and dance. There’s a deadline, there’s a damsel in distress, there’s an endless parade of excuses, there’s a pity party, and…. “Here’s you’re cheque.” It’s nice to see some members of the City Council ‘putting their foot down’ if the shoe doesn’t fit, get boots!!

    The Gallery (regardless of it’s current name) is run as Sylvie’s own private gallery. Anyone who is considered a threat to her Executive Director position is DENIED membership. If you even ask when an Annual General Meeting is being held, you’re under suspicion – You’re Membership cheque will be lost or flat-out refused. Any attempt to challenge the Director’s authority – and you’ll be threatened with a harassment lawsuit.

    As for the past Board of Directors, some were chosen and elected by the Executive Director; without a meeting even being held and this is probably how she has managed to secure her position for over two decades.

    The excuse of the job being overwhelming results in tears for funding and once received, employees get laid off due to Shortage of Work. Or at least that’s the official reason. It’s downright dysfunctional. The Executive Director cannot manage to submit completed documents on time. However, it hasn’t always been this way because many years ago, she completed the forms to receive a wage subsidy for her own son!!

    Artists were once paid a fee for having their works displayed in the gallery. They were selected through a Juried process. Now, Artists do not get paid, and the Executive Director pretty much decides if you’ll have a show or not.

    During the Annual Juried Show Exhibits, if the Director doesn’t like your work, it won’t even be seen by the Jurors. The Executive Director will walk with the Jurors and tell them which Artist created the piece and offer her opinions. She will even trump their decisions and display pieces that were not accepted.

    And the show must go on…year after year…. It’s ridiculous. It isn’t time to pull the plug on the Gallery, it’s time to pull out the Executive Director.

  14. I find it unfortunate that the gallery has once again missed a dealine. Last year as chair of the gallery I presented a comprehensive 5 year vision for the gallery to Cornwall city council. This vision had been accepted as a working plan for the gallery by the board of directors. Unfortunately by August of this year that vision was no longer acceptable to the board. I resigned my position as chair because of the differences in opinion between myself, the board, and the executive director on the fututre of the gallery. It is a sorry state of affairs when any organisation cannot maintain a clear direction for more than 10 months. I hope adquate means to support the local artists of Cornwall and the surrounding counties will be found, whatever form they might take.

  15. Oh Dennis, how blessed we are to read of kids singing and dancing in our local papers. If you hear negative comments from other cities, it’s because we’re doing something right! Its a tough pill to swallow ….envy. They only wish they had we have. A strong, blooming, creative foundation….Cornwall will grow, and the artists will make it beautiful. One gallery and art group at a time.

  16. You hit the nail squarely on the head. I’ve seen The Executive Director discussing work submitted for the jury process with the person doing the judging days before the jury process is to take place. Absolutely unprofessional on the part of the Juror and The Executive Director. @Neil Macmillian if it seems that Sylvie Lizotte is on her own it is because that is how she chooses to be, alone. I assure you many have offered her help over the years, she doesn’t want the help. Why? This is a mystery.

  17. If you visit the TAG site, you can print out your own membership card, and select your very own Best Before Date!!
    The incompetence runs rampant.

  18. Author

    Our apologies. This comment was caught in our spam filter which can be wonky on occasion.

    Author : Brian Schofield
    I find it unfortunate that the gallery has once again missed a deadline. Last year as chair of the gallery I presented a comprehensive 5 year vision for the gallery to Cornwall city council. This vision had been accepted as a working plan for the gallery by the board of directors. Unfortunately by August of this year that vision was no longer acceptable to the board. I resigned my position as chair because of the differences in opinion between myself, the board, and the executive director on the future of the gallery. It is a sorry state of affairs when any organisation cannot maintain a clear direction for more than 10 months. I hope adequate means to support the local artists of Cornwall and the surrounding counties will be found, whatever form they might take.

  19. Shut em’ down. Shut em all down and keep that Allyssia Blais woman out of the paper. Ewwwwwwwwww! If we stop feeding the lazy {MODERATED} portion of Cornwall they will move away. Same for the artistes.

  20. It’s sad when you read about comments how people don’t care of the arts.. it’s a cultural thing… Sylvie didn’t even have a “real” board until recent… she had fake people.. didn’t even run meetings! She chooses to run things ALONE because she wants it done her way and no other way or she will boot you! Don’t give her a pitty party.. please it will go to her head

  21. I am an artist, native to Cornwall …..I painted a beautiful chair…a little buddah surrounded by flowers….it was to be auctioned off at the children’s treatment center….Well ….i brough in the chair to the Tag…gallery and it has simply ……
    ………..disappeared….no one knows what happened to it or where it went to…..who ….possibly would steal it for their own gain…i have no idea… is disappearing from the gallery…..Does anyone Care..? i do , because … was ….MY art….it did not make the auction….no one knows…..and that is the last time i deal with the children’s treatment centre……that chair took me month to paint……i’m sure it would have raised money for the children……..Instead it has disappeared….no one knows not even
    Sylvie…..I am very disappointed and frustrated with this selfish behaviour…..from another Cornwall institution……
    i was treated just as badly during the cornwall inquiery….This does not surprise me for my City……Thieves and liars all………….

  22. Thank you Marc for having the ka-who-nas to not only speak out but to sign your name. Sometimes the rug needs a good shaking to get out all the dirt. Sorry to hear about your chair.

  23. Missing artwork. Will someone please explain how this is acceptable?

  24. Please forgive me all……..i asked what happened to that chair and the answer was …..
    WE don’t know.” …..from tag….that’s Sylvie and Vincent at that time….the answer i got… after going to that auction and not seeing it….I was under the impression it had disappered ? ….cause the answers where just ” we don’t know”….where it is…….
    the same answer was given to me a second and third time….it forced me to rethink about participating again in that auction as an Artist……i was very disappointed in the answers I recieved….And i’m sure you will all agree…..
    it had to get to this point for me to finally get an answer which is now that i got upset about it….” the chair is in storage at st=lawrence college awaiting next years auction……..So people..this made me look like i was a puke and i apologize for asking about the chair…but i think that Sylvie needed to be told that professionaly …this sucked big time and that i’m not a complainer…..i was not given info about a simple matter and it lead to this upset…..i only wanted my art to benefit those kids and no one else…..that’s why i put the money into it… it is where it should be and i thanks Tag for giving the info a year later………….it seems the gallery may think that i am a complainer now….but i don’t care…..after the wrongful info from the last gala….the 30 for those art exchange…..another blunder on their part ..not my fault …i only gave my art for a reason and it was changed at the last minute….and now Vincent has quit…….so sorry to hear that……..i have a right to know where my art goes…i have a right as an artist……..not to be put on a shelf ……but to be honestly answered when asked a simple question…Don’t you agree…Artists……wrongful info all over Cornwall it seems……the artisrt are always struggling so…….
    Anyways ….please forgive my…….” COMPLAINT “……

    Marc Carriere

  25. I forgot to say….that I’m certainly not afraid to sign my name…..or ashamed of asking sometimes too many questions….those who respect that right will respect me…..and not bash me for it…..I Love TAG and I love my community….my roots are here as are my friends and family.

    P.S. ” Merry Christmas “

  26. I read in the Journal that Sylvie had no idea why the City is pulling funding or why they didn’t qualify, helloooooo! You are in charge of getting the application in on time, Sylvie, you are the reason why!!!!! Funny the Journal failed to mention that one important fact.
    Good news is she (Sylvie) is willing to go without pay if needed, the first intelligent thing she has said and done to date.

  27. Author

    Marc I am sorry you were treated so unprofessionally. Artists are always the first to be asked to give and donate; most times without ever getting anything back.

    Artists deserve better.

  28. Regarding Sylvie’s pledge to to “do everything possible to keep the doors open” even if she has to volunteer without pay….. WOW trying to play the Martyr… it’s Her fault that this happens Every year!! Her presence – paid or unpaid is detrimental to the Gallery’s survival.

  29. Jamie:

    I think you have a great idea in using space at the Cornwall Library as an arts center. It just makes sense. The Pitt Street location is devoid of atmosphere whereas the old post office(library) is an historic building with many possibilities. Surely, there could be renovations done to incorporate an arts center. As you say it would drive traffic to the building and would add more prestige to the artists’ work. Yes, applying for funding every year is a huge waste of time and really puts the ‘arts’ on a back burner. We can and should do more in Cornwall!

  30. Jamie,
    The comments about the library imply that it is underused. Our experience shows just the opposite. People are gravitating to the physical space and the services that the library provides in larger numbers than ever. Demand for printed books in not decreasing despite the Internet and ebooks. In fact, we are busier now that our mandate includes digital literacy. We had 234,300 visitors in 2011 who borrowed 276,700 physical items which is 13% more than 5 years ago. Library visitors used another 160,000 items in-house (a 21% increase). We had 43,000 Internet sessions and another 115,000 log-ins on the wireless, a majority of which are students or job seekers. And this year’s numbers are likely to surpass that.

    Your comment about the library delivering what people want and creating more cultural partnerships is exactly how we have managed to stay this busy. Last year, the library partnered with other cultural organizations on over 750 programs ranging from early childhood literacy, technology and computer literacy, genealogy and local history, to adult and senior’s specific programs such as philosophy, photography, and science and nature. Our programming also included cultural events such as juried art shows, author visits, and writing workshops. 9,415 people attended these programs. This number doesn’t include room rentals to other agencies (over 300). In some cases our program space was booked to capacity and we had to refuse potential partners.

    The library is accountable to the municipality and to the province in terms of funding, staffing levels and library use. This library is run with municipal funding that is below the provincial average for a library in a commuity of this size. It seems like those who do not use libraries are the only ones proclaiming them obsolete

    Another note… plans were drawn up in 1996 for the library building to house the Cornwall Art Gallery. The gallery ultimately did not move in. We are now pursuing another major cultural partnership for unused space in the buildling which will be presented to City Council in the New Year.

    Dawn Kiddell
    Chief Librarian, Cornwall Public Library

  31. Look forward to hearing about the new partnership in the works. Cornwall is fortunate to have a wonderful library with caring, helpful staff. A community Library is in my eyes, a hub in the community that encourages, learning, sharing and relating amongst the young to the more seasoned occupants of our cities. A place that supports a inclusive environment to study, learn, share and have fun; that welcomes all members of the community and visitors. My experience is that the Cornwall Library does exactly that and I am very grateful to have access to all the services, programs and help that The Cornwall Public Library has to offer. Thanks for taking the time to post the statistics Dawn.

  32. I think this woman should be fired!. This nonsense would never be allowed to occur in a big city nor would this poor excuse for an art gallery survive. I mean get real, why is she a one man show…pushing people around and getting away with it…C’mon Cornwall grow up! the woman’s acting like a con artist

  33. What the hell is wrong with City Council. I am so upset that my tax dollar is being used on someone who is so incompetent and non trust worthy. I believe a full investigation should be in place and the books audited. This whole scene is so wrong in so many ways. Put the gallery in the library and hire an art student to manage it. The student will do a much better job than what is being done now. Shame, shame…….Sylvie, your are not qualified and need to be booted out the door sooner than later.

  34. I’m a young artist that has had several art shows with my work in Toronto. I have won several awards for my work and would love to show my work in my home town of Cornwall. I could not believe the so called “Gallery” and the snooty person who was running the place. I would never put my art in this gallery. It is very apparent that this Sylvia person should be removed from her position. I think Art has a place in Cornwall and should be part of the cultural drawing of tourist. I have visited galleries in much smaller towns and they are very successful. Time to over hall this position. All I can say is “Sylvia get out of town ops, I mean the gallery.”

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