It’s Time For Artists To Step Up in Cornwall Ontario as TAG FUNDING Still in Crisis by Jamie Gilcig JULY 11, 2015

I’m not big on veneers.    Politicians live by them.   I’d rather be liked, or disliked, for whom I am than who I want people to see me as.

There’s been a certain irony to watch the hate and stupidity roll here in Cornwall of late.

We have the Bill & Todd show where these two alleged journalists don’t cover a conflict of interest application and then report on a court outcome.   It must be bizarre if you are one of the rare few who only read the Seaway News or Cornwall Newswatch and all of the sudden read a verdict?

Fame or infamy can be a plus and a negative.  It can bring out the worst in some that are jealous, or ignorant and stupid.  You become a target, for good and bad.

This week, mysteriously, after our fund raiser for TAG, Bill & Todd ran pieces about the Sylvie Lizotte lawsuit (after it being around for over a month).   For those of you that aren’t aware besides being your cute and cuddly editor of CFN I am also on the board of TAG Cornwall, invited to be there by Ms Lizotte herself after she came to me for help when the big mean Elaine MacDonald & Carilyne Hebert allegedly made Sylvie fear for her job.

There’s a double irony there as Sylvie is suing both myself and TAG prez Wyatt Walsh personally in her wrongful dismissal suit, but if I had wanted her gone why on earth would I have defended her up to and including sending Elaine an email asking if I needed to do an expose on what was going on under her watch while she herself was President of the Gallery?

TAG has board of director insurance.    It was renewed by our insurance company, in spite of this suit without our premium going up.  We consulted with an HR expert moving into this mess and he warned us that this sort of suit can happen no matter what the circumstances.   I expect justice to prevail clearly and loudly by the time this process is done.

When I’m at TAG I wear my TAG hat.   Sometimes it can be a strain, but I think I’ve done an amazing job of it.

In my years here in Cornwall I’ve supported the arts as best as I’ve been allowed to.   The politics of this wacky town have put up barriers to my involvement like many outsiders.   I championed saving the Port theatre where CFN had its 5th year anniversary for example.   Thanks to the Sylvain family it’s still here.

For over two decades people have talked about having an Arts Centre when they have had one all along, TAG Cornwall.

It can be debated, but it’s utterly insane and a waste of tax dollars to fund  another study for an Arts Centre when council has cut TAG’s funding to Zero and did a study in 1995 for this purpose of having an Arts Centre.  That’s 20 years ago.  Do you see any other Art Centre’s in this city?   Politicians love buying studies.  It saves them having to take positions.

The library costs us about $2,000,000 a year in overhead.   Is council prepared to spend nearly as much on the overhead of a new fancy building?  I doubt it.    Do you need a study to figure that out?    Does this city warrant a shiny new art centre?    While I’m sure some of our fine artists would agree, the reality is that in 2015 our art community and art economy simply aren’t strong enough.

And you can’t blame the politicians because frankly the arts groups themselves are their worst enemies from infighting among themselves to the shameless lack of support for TAG which they’ve allowed to be abused this year and its very survival put at risk.

What is an Arts Centre after all?  Is it bricks and mortar or is it the Artists themselves?  I would suggest the latter.

The community needs to rally around TAG and send a loud message.   I know when I step through the door at 168 Pitt Street I wear only one hat.  I wish others could do the same.

As for an arts centre I have a vision for that myself.    TAG’s board is entering an agreement to purchase our building.   We paid off its mortgage with our rent from the last twenty years so why not buy it ourselves so that Artists can have something for generations long after this board is gone?

We also would like to purchase the Port Theatre so that the building would be under the auspices of a charity and we would have access to more funding to insure its future.     In Cornwall we tend to destroy our history instead of cherish it.

This plan would put our Art Centre with one foot in historic le Village and one foot downtown.  It would double our gallery space and give us an auditorium that could show films and events including stage plays.

It would cost under $1 million dollars and its overheard would be substantially less than the Library’s.

Sometimes you have to live within your budget.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Maybe one day Cornwall will be ready for a huge facility.  I’d love to see that, but today is no more that day than it was twenty years ago.

Next year is TAG’s 20th Anniversary in its current location.  How many other establishments can boast that on Pitt Street?

This is a reflection of our community and frankly it’s  not a good one.    Can you imagine Brockville treating a public gallery like this?   Volunteers from the community ponied up over $200K to put the seats in their art centre.

Hugo Rodrigues wrote about the arts in his column today.


“Witness the decision – for whatever reasons – to strip The Art Gallery of Cornwall (TAG) of its remaining funding. The 2015 budget discussion over funding Your Arts Council centred on the money needed to pay its executive director, a position its board has reportedly terminated.

What happens to that money, if it’s been sent and spent, is a question council should ask.

Every person interested in the arts in Cornwall then sat back painfully watched as without any discussion at all, council continued an unneeded, $22,000-a-season ice time subsidy to a successful junior A hockey team.”

He makes some strong points in his piece, but honestly we don’t need studies right now.  We need artists themselves to step up.

Right now we waste money on Aultsville Theatre which essentially is the auditorium for St. Lawrence College.  It owns no real estate and offers no services for free to the public.  It’s expensive to rent to the point that local promoters complain that it’s more expensive than renting in Brockville or Ottawa even.

We give even more than the $100K per year to AT to the Woodhouse Musueum which is open even less hours than TAG which is in crisis mode.    This is the abuse of the public purse that council must be held accountable for.   Again it’s up to Artists to demand support of the Arts.

TAG has a new charter, a new membership structure, a clear vision, and more importantly open doors to all artists that truly want to focus on their art and this community.   I think that deserves support from Artists and City Hall.

Public Art Galleries are not meant to be self sustainable because the work they do is not geared to do so anymore than the Benson Centre is meant to be self sustainable or the library.

TAG sadly is preparing to do a National fund raising campaign as we need to replace the money that the city has slashed from us.  As a board member my responsibility is to do my best to give care to TAG and that requires funding.    That campaign would not reflect well on this community and especially our council.   To me it’s insane which is why we’ve delayed implementing it a few times as we hope some wiser minds will prevail.

There are councilors that ran on their support of the Arts, like Bernadette Clement who now wants to be your MP, that need to step up and put their money where their mouth is.

To reach council you can email them at

Disclaimer:  While I’m a member of the board of TAG Cornwall I am writing my own opinion and not on behalf of the board or per TAG Cornwall.



  1. Jeez….buying the Port Theatre….where have I heard that one before? Oh, yes, I’ve been saying it for a while now. With the empty parking lot beside it and / or the stores on the east side it could become something like Brockville’s Art Centre.

    I’d like to see all non-city related organizations that ask for city money have to justify the need for that money. The process now is a farce of what should actually be happening.

  2. I personally, as a local Artist, appreciate the hat you wear while at TAG. Thank you for everything you do Jamie!

  3. Admin the city doesn’t know what to do with the mountain of cash bursting from its coffers. Just drove down Adolphus St. where painted on both sides of the road at seemingly regular intervals there are nice little bicycle symbols painted on the road surface, not bike lanes just pictures of bikes and arrows, lots of arrows. Not sure what the point of this expense is or how many streets are getting this treatment, but money is definitely be spent without any real benefit to the taxpayer. The purpose is likely an opportunity for students to learn valuable…no forget that idea lets go back to there really is no good defendable reason to paint these symbols other than to get rid of some of the superfluous cash.

  4. The point of my previous comments was that if the people entrusted with managing our fair city would stick to the necessities rather than inventing new ways to waste money there would be money for something culturally worth while like TAG. They likely feel good thinking that they are doing something beneficial. The forest obviously blocks the view of the trees for some, for example….stop signs, often more than one proclaiming a “NEW” stop. Now think for one second about learning to drive, was a stop sign not a prime focus? When you travel to a new destination are not all the stop signs, traffic lights and other assorted signs etc “NEW” to you? The answer of course is yes but you still manage to obey the rules and stop or at least slow down as seems to be the common practice now. Bottom line again the city could save valuable dollars by simply allowing commonsense to prevail. At least once in awhile.

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