Cornwall ON – There’s a lot of smoke right now as certain political types; mostly rookies with no comprehension of how the system works, about turning le Village in Cornwall into some sort of Arts Enclave. People dream big when spending tax dollars.
Odd. Le Village was at one point a hearty community; the French soul of a city with a proud French heritage.
Now it’s got a few pawn shops, a few tattoo places, and a few bars and restaurants. It’s also got The Port Theatre; a 73 year old original Roxy Theatre that the Sylvain family have purchased and are in the process of cleaning up and trying to bring back to life.
The odd thing is that the only true location of Arts and Culture in le Village, The Port; isn’t really being supported by some of these same wannabees. How many times has Todd Bennett been to the Port for any of the near 20 events that have been run there since the Sylvain’s took over? Has Betty Healey ever stepped foot inside? Elaine MacDonald?
While Arts and Culture are hot buzz words by some wanting to be elected they really aren’t an issue in the city’s life. We’ve had an Arts Council and Committee for nearly two years? They’ve sucked up tax dollars; but what have they accomplished?
The tax supported Art Gallery was closed for the month of July; our city’s alleged busiest cultural month when we have festivals devoted to eating BBQ Pork or looking for balloons over the sky. Major events miss Cornwall, and most of those put on at such places as Aultsville Theatre (puffed up by nearly $100K per year of tax money) rarely fill the hall or break even.
So what exactly could be done in le Village? Well generally poorer areas attract aspiring artists because most young professionals have little money or resources. While that’s true here, in that le Village isn’t as expensive as Pitt Street or Brookdale, to open any space nowadays requires expensive utility deposits, permits which in Cornwall can take up to 18 months or longer (while paying rent!) and of course promotion.
Should the city spend tax dollars to credit artistic businesses? Is that the role of taxpayers? Should we create a red zone and give tax credits to artistic businesses? Wouldn’t that open up a can of worms for people like OBO Studios that grabbed the space above the old Freeholder building? If you give money to le Village should Tracy & Emily get some bucks too? Should the Grind not get some money too for showcasing some area artists and performers? The Seaway News even offers up one of its windows to artists. Would it be fair to dump money into le Village and not to those that actually have been trying to support the arts in other areas of our city?
Right now the city is burning nearly $400,000 per year giving monies out to Aultsville theatre, TAG or whatever they’re called this week, the Woodhouse museum (which hardly seems open), and a few events. That’s a petty large envelope and very little of that money really gets spent on Arts and Culture, or artists themselves. It does get spent on salaries for bureaucrats and those that are employed to run the facility.
Should we be supporting the arts. Yes, of course, with our own money. Any investment of public dollars should make sense and gain something for the community. When the info session that was held at Aultsville theatre a few years ago to form the arts council it was attended by less than 75 people with only tiny group voting themselves positions. Does Cornwall even honour artists? I mean heck, the city doesn’t even honour Ryan Gosling and he’s a star!
Artists need to bring something to the table that makes sense. It should not be city officials leading the way as Elaine MacDonald has been trying to do by sitting on the board of Art Gallery.
There are many fiscally prudent ways to promote the arts and culture in our community; to support early stages and work with the community to help it grow.
Throwing city money at it, or pimping up a run down section of the city isn’t the solution. Le Village is a part of town in flux. It’s from a time and place that really is over and has changed. It will be gentrified one day; but if you look at areas close by like Westboro in Ottawa, much of that change occurred via demotion and rebirth which in the end is what will most likely happen via the private sector in Cornwall.
So let’s stop baby politicking and if you truly want to support the arts; buy a painting with your own money. Buy a concert or event ticket. Help people like the Sylvain’s who are investing their hearts, souls, and pocket books and are trying to raise funds to bring in pro digital projection.
In other words put your money where your words are and stop spending others. And as for those wannabee politicians I hope you make these kinds of issues loud and proud with voters so that they can decide if they want to bank roll such dreams of Xanadu on Montreal Road.