Election Blog – Jamie Gilcig – Mayor – Cornwall Ontario – Converting Our Library Into An Arts Centre

JG Election 300x250-02  TESTThe Arts are something we roll out every election in Cornwall.   These last few years have seen them politicized with Elaine MacDonald bullying her way through them with the use of a few Trillium grants.

Currently Cornwall subsidizes the Aultsville Theatre and has subsidized our local art gallery; both essentially returning less value to the community than we get from our all too generous donation to the Woodhouse museum.

All of us know that the actual borrowing and reading of actual hard copy printed books is not rising yet we have two downtown libraries in Cornwall; one for the Counties and one for our fair city.
The City library is in a stunning building that truly should be converted into our very own downtown Art Centre.   There really is no doubt or question; but it’s a tricky canard politically.   The book lending can be done easily from the Counties library which would leave the City Library to be converted which would not take that much doing.

It already has screening rooms upstairs and the high ceilings downstairs mean a small auditorium could be built. There’s actual parking behind the library too which would make evening and weekend events more possible.

The problem is shaking people into moving forward in this direction and that comes down to the horrible culture of our arts community in Cornwall.

Four years ago Mayor Kilger called our library a jewel.   Listen to his words about arts; but do you see him at arts events?  Have you ever seen him at the Port Theatre events?  History and our heritage are being saved at our 75 year old original Roxy theatre.  It’s still running movies,  but also is showing local bands and concerts.

His speech above is full of blarney and vigor; but was not backed up by action.   None really.   Can we afford another four years of hot air?  What momentum is he actually talking about?

Four years later listen to his words at the end?  Have we improved?

Compared to the sports community our Arts & Culture groups are one hot mess.   Our best artists rarely work with them, and they don’t do much to promote or elevate our area profile.  There isn’t much glory in the arts in our city right now.

And until that happens, until the arts community can pull itself together and work in a cohesive group,  we can’t really focus resources on an art centre.

That saddens me as an artist myself.   What saddens me more is the massive amount of tax dollars that we are giving to Aultsville Theatre, the Woodhouse Museum, and TAG at the moment vs the return.  That has to be reviewed.  The community has to get value for any monies we donate or subsidize with.  Personally I’d rather stream some of those dollars into a fund for when we are ready rather than continue to subsidize St. Lawrence College’s auditorium.

Arts = yes.    Waste = no.

All one has to do is look to our neighbors in Brockville and see what happens when a community works together.  Their Arts Centre is text book of how valuable and the impact a project of this nature can have for a city, especially its downtown core.   We need this in Cornwall; but not until we have a cohesive and strong Arts Community that is committed to strong principles and leaves the Hatfield and McCoy behavior at the door, and becomes more inclusive.

And we need to keep people like Elaine MacDonald from bullying and having control.  Any initiatives should be transparent and accountable to those that pay for it, and that would be the rate payers of our city and region.

Election Day is October 27th.  If you want change in our city. If you want vision.  If you want leadership.  There is only one choice on your ballot for Mayor.

First on the list; first for Cornwall!

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  1. Great election blog Jamie! Congrats again on bringing something truly fresh to the table.

    We haven’t improved and that is exactly the point. A progressive community must have focus on something as valuable to so many as an Art Centre.

    It offers something to the community that is suitable to all ages but encourages so many to venture into new artistic territory.

    Otherwise we are smothered and caught up in a negative past instead of a progressive future.

    Yes, the parking also would be a bonus!

    Keep these moving forward election blogs coming.

  2. It’s time to accentuate the positive about this community and eliminate the negative!

    Thanks again for helping to open this possibility to others.

    As previously mentioned elsewhere, it is totally refreshing and hopeful!

  3. When you compile these attractive and positive images of our community, that could be, doesn’t this paint a pretty picture instead of one mired in mess? I would like to think so. Certainly, others must feel likewise!

  4. If we as a community don’t move forward now, after years of missing the boat, then when?

    There are no more excuses to offer other than those we are already aware of. In many areas, they have failed pathetically and held our community back, not driven it forward where it should have been and should be.

    Excuses can only last so long before people begin to see the light.

    Other communities have soared compared to Cornwall, isn’t it time we catch up?

  5. A unique concept. Good in theory, not so good in being practical. The downtown Cornwall library is good for people who live downtown and do not have access to transportation. And do we really need another under-utilized arts centre? We have the Aultsville Theatre and Port Theatre that are under-utilized. Do we need another “arts centre” that will be under-utilized? I don’t think so.

  6. Why on earth are we subsidizing the Aultsville theatre?? Let the college and it’s high tuitions pay for it. I bet if the city cut it’s funding of the theatre, they would get creative in a hurry at coming up with new revenue streams.

  7. I disagree! We need a core/hub for this Arts Centre.

    If people want the downtown core revitalized, then the location of the Arts Center would be ideal.

    Everything would be easy access and available to those who enjoyed the Centre. That alone in time would generate more dollars /investment into the downtown area.

    If properly run /organized and encouraged more people would want to become informed and hopefully begin taking interest in the many events and such that would be offered at the downtown Arts Centre.

    If never given a chance to grow, how can anything expect to bloom, including new ideas/progressive thoughts in our community?

    With the right vibe taking place it could become a wonderful community gathering spot for all artistic levels of expression, not limiting anyone but including new ventures, new art forms and something that would inspire more artists.

    Our area is filled to the brim with the most amazing artistic and creative people, many come to name. Cornwall is an artistic community in many ways, let’s encourage something that will continue to attract them and draw interest.

    We can’t snuff out a new fresh idea before we give it a chance to blossom and grow.


    We have been going to our wonderful library for almost 20 years now and absolutely love it. We have spent hours there reading and learning in a nice and peaceful environment. The library is the library, simply meant for for knowledge. It is not to be confused with art!! FIND YOUR OWN BUILDING FOR YOUR ART CENTRE!!

  9. Worst idea ever. I take my 2 young girls to the library every weekend. What the hell would we do with an arts center? Another terrible idea for the revitalization of down town. Would I ever got to a library? YES, all the time. To an arts center? NO never.

  10. Here’s a thought….instead of converting the library, why not convert the civic complex into an arts centre? We alreay have a three pad arena at the Benson Centre, so their revenues would increase. The revenue for the businesses and artists who rent space at the Centre would surely offset the complex’s existing revenue, if not exceed it. It would comply with the waterfront’s mandate to keep that area a “people place” and would still make a great venue for the performing arts as well. The rent payed to Aultsville theatre would now return to the city and the arts and culture groups who currrently receive about $200,000 in total in funding annually could band together and use that money as a collective group, and probably reduce their costs by cutting duplicate services. Worth a look……

  11. Author

    red phoenix we need the complex as a venue. The Benson Centre sadly was built without much seating. I think the largest capacity is about 400 seats if memory serves me well. I think by the time of its service life finishing you’ll see the complex and park becomes one waterfront strip of development.

    The monies from Aultsville would surely help support a Downtown Arts Centre. We have two downtown libraries with dwindling usage of books.

    People are also not understanding that an Arts Centre can be many things. Some of the popular activities at the library could still occur in an Arts Centre. Aultsville Theatre is not an art centre. It’s an auditorium for rent that for some reason; most likely connected to the patronage of former CAO Paul Fitzpatrick, sucks an immense amount of money from the city without giving anything back to all of the residents.

    That in my opinion is an abuse of the public purse.

  12. Good points, Jamie.

    Perhaps it is time for the owners of the former Domtar lands to commit some of their property for remediation and development of a new arts centre. That would go a long way to demonstrate corporate goodwill, considering the advantages they reaped over the years. Most cities rely on corporate and private donations to fund initiatives such as this. There are several possibilities. Benson stepped up to the plate when it came to the Benson centre so perhaps now it’s time for another corporate citizen to take up this cause.

  13. Most unfortunate that the theatre on Second Street was not incorporated into the new structure. Other cities have figured out how to blend the old with the new and thereby preserve a piece of history and a link to the past. The London Armouries a Delta Hotel in London comes to mind.

    While admittedly the library is of significant importance times change needs and one library would make sense from a variety of perspectives. An Arts Centre is something that I could get behind as a forward step and best use of the facility.

    Then again from churches to schools and other public places we need to move forward and utilize these structures in creative ways to assist in building a stronger and progressive community. We need to think outside the box as a community and do something that will make people look at Cornwall in a much different light.

    Rather than trying to emulate other communities why not do something that other communities wished that they had thought of first. Maybe its just me.

  14. David Oldham….what theatre on Second Street are you referring to?

  15. @Hugger1. The theatre fronted on Second St and was demolished to make way for the Provincial Court Building. A similar structure of the same period was torn down in Ottawa, where I grew up. These structures were constructed for live performances as well as having orchestra pits for silent movies. Acoustically they were great, architecturally interesting and would have made a terrific venue for a wide variety of activities including a once a year fund raiser for its upkeep. When I have mentioned lack of vision of the leadership of this community this is but the tip of my disappointment in the direction that we are traveling (or was that spinning?).

  16. The theatre was called the Capitol and had seating for 1360. Built in 1928 I believe and torn down in 1991. Damage was mainly cosmetic and restoration costs were pegged at about 5 million. 75% of the costs of restoration would have been covered by a Provincial Heritage initiative.

  17. @David Oldham… the Ottawa theatre you mention… was that the Rialto? I think that got knocked down around the same time as the Capitol in Cornwall. I used to go to the science-fiction triple bills with my Dad in the 80’s… usually falling asleep by the time the third movie played. There will never be buildings like that again, best to preserve any remaining. Is Barrymore’s still around?

  18. It was the Somerset Theatre I’m remembering, not the Rialto. Although we used to go to both.

  19. Rialto (AKA The Rat Hotel, later known as The Phoenix.

  20. It would be super if you could write in proper English.

  21. @Hugger1. Being an Ottawa boy we simply called it (The Rialto Theatre on Bank St.) the Rat Hole. On saturdays we would venture downtown from the westend (suburbs)and catch the two for one showing. Never did see a rat. Not sure whether Barrymore’s is still going or not.

  22. Barrymore’s may be open. But how it’s doing is any one’s guess.

  23. David Oldham….in my days of going to the Rialto I saw a few rats there.

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