My year at TAG Cornwall has been eye opening and interesting. I’ve discovered a passion for painting. I’ve seen the good and bad in our local artists. I’ve listened to a lot of people. I’ve helped a lot of people. I’ve also had to say no to some people and draw some lines.
Our board has had one simple policy in the gallery since we’ve been on duty.
TAG has to be a safe and welcoming place for all. Once a person crosses our doorway the only thing that counts is art and artists.
So when Sandra Taylor Hedges was ranting on facebook that we shouldn’t get our funding and then asked to paint in our window last Summer. She got to paint in our window. Last night she picketed in front of our window.
Sadly though, like any good thing, people get jealous. They covet. If they don’t get their way some of them throw tantrums and act out. Sometimes they get their friends to join in. It happens in school yards. It happens in life.
Last night, after presenting to council for our funding, we had a meeting at TAG to gauge community support to sustain the gallery. We expected one to two dozen. We had to add a bunch of chairs and that didn’t count the eight or protesters outside.
We had sent out press releases for the original Monday night meeting. A councilor had complained that it was the same night as council so we changed the meeting to last night, a Tuesday. Nary a councilor showed up.
What I saw after initiating an investigation by direction of our board was a historical case of abuse by board members at the beginning of my tenure at TAG.
One was Heather Smith, the ring leader of the protest Tuesday night. She was on the board during the Elaine MacDonald and Carilyne Hebert terms. That board broke the law and eventually resigned after wrangling with the gallery’s former Executive Director under threat of a lawsuit and media exposure.
At the January 2015 AGM there was almost no attendance, two new board members were appointed in absentia.
Hebert & MacDonald, had been supporting YAC, which was supposed to be an Arts Council, but has been an utter failure because of frankly the culture of the community, and in particular the artistic community. Today YAC has about the same membership as TAG, but they charge no membership fee. While they had one they only had about 25 members after several years of existence. They then actively attempted to compete for City funding with TAG instead of working together.
At that time if Focus Art or any group had wanted to take over the gallery they could easily of elected with a small group of less than ten people.
Our board cleaned up the gallery. We dealt with some issues that most volunteer boards should not have to deal with.
We had a board member by the name of Eric Covington who had been on the board of YAC and left. Eric had a glass show coming up that included Heather Smith. The two had been fighting and giving grief to our former ED. At the same time the board had decided to give our ED a few weeks off so we could conduct an inventory of our permanent collection and initiate our investigation.
At a board meeting when it came up that we might have to delay Eric’s glass show, or even cancel it he threw a tantrum and actually leaked the investigation causing a lot of emotional grief for all concerned. He also wanted TAG to absorb his glass works which really wasn’t our mandate, especially given our current issues.
Eric Covington left the board after a failed attempt to illegally remove other board members and his conflict of interest. He then went on to make false allegations regarding the board and willfully petitioned council to terminate our funding of which he was successful. This year he’s been doing this same on a facebook page with Heather Smith, Kimberley Cameron, and a few others. All three being former and disgruntled board members who left in disgrace.
Our board offered Heather Smith and her faction their own glass show at a later date. She refused.
In the interim we were working with a volunteer artist by the name of Kimberley Cameron. The mother of five who lived in Cornwall Housing on some sort of funding was a great volunteer. She worked hard. So hard that we gave her nearly $1,000.00 in honorariums and asked her to fill an open spot on our board which she accepted.
We were grooming her to possibly take a position at the gallery as none of the current board wished to continue after our two year terms including yours truly.
After terminating our executive director, the gallery and myself and President Walsh were sued. Shortly before our announcement that the lawsuit was resolved Ms Cameron went on the warpath. She demanded big changes at the gallery, chiefly the removal of yours truly.
She laid no evidence to the cause she claimed. She delivered no proof. When asked at a board meeting to provide anything, any shred of any impropriety she went to the gallery computer and opened her facebook.
Frustrated she resigned and stormed off. She had not closed her facebook. We looked at some of her personal chats about the gallery, and it was utterly shocking. It was a gross collection of childish insults, false accusations, defamatory statements, and in some cases out right lies. Essentially while smiling and working with myself and the board on a near daily basis there were events occurring that seemed out of a cheap novel or bad 80’s TV show.
It also exposed people like Linda Geisel, President of Focus Art as well as people like Carilyne Hebert.
Heather Smith, while returning easels that the gallery had loaned out for the garlic fest launched into a diatribe so loud and foul mouthed that I walked her out and sent her a trespass letter. She complained to President Walsh about it and confirmed what she had done. We don’t condone abuse or foul language in front of small children.
Ms Smith was so nasty that two artists fled with both suggesting the police should have been called.
Our President clearly stated that if she wished to send in an apology and ask to be reinstated. She refused, instead continued to work against the gallery including last night’s protest in which she was joined by Kimberley Cameron and a few of the other “artists” from Focus Art.
Myself and President Walsh went out last night and invited the protesters in the gallery, but they were having fun, waving signs, and essentially demanding that Ms Smith’s trespass order be rescinded. In the meanwhile her husband, Craig Frey, was in the meeting room disrupting things when he could.
The meeting was to gauge public support and it was the largest meeting that this board has had. There were questions, and issues, but frankly almost everyone in the room wanted the gallery to survive. They did all seem to have their own idea of how it should survive. All we were trying to do was seek common ground.
Our board has dealt with many challenges. One of which has been some abusive media mostly stemming from animosity (and jealousy) between media outlets. Even though I am the majority owner of this newspaper we had a clear policy at TAG of issuing releases to the local media of which I’d embargo CFN for 48 hours.
Only the Freeholder and Seeker shared about our meeting and the change of date. Yet the Seaway News and Cornwall Newswatch covered the protest. They did not ask the gallery for comment nor enter the meeting. The reports this morning, covered by all four other area outlets are essentially why I’ve written this piece as all missed key facets which create false perceptions which hold down many groups in this community.
Essentially you’ve had a tiny group trying to push their way around and support behavior that most would not support in their own business or home. Rose Desnoyers (Focus Art & Centre de Cultural) was one of the those holding a sign last night. She also knew and was part of the Focus Art attempt to take over TAG recently.
This is from a conversation between Linda Geisel (President of Focus Art) and Kimberley Cameron after we announced that I would be taking a leave of absence from the board after our upcoming AGM. The conversation was initiated by Ms Geisel.
in light of the announcement by Jamie Gilcig, will you be interested in running for the Board of director of TAG? The art world needs people like you.
Thank you Linda.. truly. I definitely would if he is out of the picture. Wyatt’s not far behind him. Although, I do believe there’s something up here… a way to get artist to attend the AGM perhaps??… one should never trust Jamie. Besides, he made sure to change the structure of membership so that only ‘VOTING MEMBERS’ can have a say…. a voting membership was upped to $75 knowing that not many would purchase it. This was planned well.. unfortunately.
Oh dear, I hope you are wrong. I will get a membership if it means to vote him off the board. I know some of us would be eager to do the same. Any suggestion how we (artists) should react to this news?
So what you have is the President of Focus Art conspiring with a former TAG board member to take over the gallery.
You also have the President of a Not For Profit Association conspiring to have a board meeting secretly for that purpose.
Rose Desnoyers and other Focus Art members were alerted to this. For any President of a not for profit to behave in this manner would normally be grounds for immediate dismissal/resignation. Instead the group joined Kimberley Cameron and Heather Smith to protest the TAG meeting. IE, if they couldn’t take it over, then they’d do their best to hurt and possibly close the gallery.
Is it any wonder why our most talented refuse to be on boards and committees when having to deal with this sort of circus? You put in hard work and treat people with respect to see this sort of behavior?
The good news that that the gallery had its largest exposure of the year which may sound odd, but when you’re celebrating your 30th anniversary at the corner of Pitt and Second and over 15% of those that step in ask how long we’ve been open exposure can be a good thing.
Right now the board of TAG is facing some big decisions. There are two critical factors for the gallery to survive.
The first is funding, and the second is community support.
In less than one year this board has cleaned up the historical issues including a resolution to finally deal with the permanent collection, had four large exhibits, and increased most metrics including the amount of visitors, and amount of art sold.
We did that with our funding cut to zero and limited staff and volunteers.
Frankly I’m very very proud of our team and those in the community that supported the gallery.
There’s hope, but frankly you have to fix an issue to move forward. Our biggest concern as a board is who will take over after most of us leave in 2017? Who will ensure that the gallery continues to grow?
There’s so much misinformation and frankly, outright lies, about the gallery and members of this board. Does it create an environment where the only solution is to close?