Cornwall Ontario Mayor Gets Free Art for Office While Public Gallery Set to Close After Funding Cut to Zero MAY 11, 2016

Cornwall Ontario as a community has historically poorly supported the arts.  With an influx of seniors from communities that do support the arts it makes sense for some of those sports dollars to shift.

Sadly, that isn’t the case.  The city’s 36 year old public art gallery, TAG Cornwall, is to close this year after the city not only cut its funding for 2015 and 2016 to zero, but also refused to promote its exhibits on the city’s facebook page, or help promote any of its shows and events.   One councilor, failed Liberal MP candidate Bernadette Clement went as far as to suggest issues with governance when there were no complaints and the gallery had published that it had a new up to date charter as well as a new membership structure.

Only City Hall can answer why the ugliness to its public art gallery?     They have invested a few dollars in smaller groups, but this year nearly 1,000 students will not be participating and visiting the gallery because of the cuts.

That’s tragic.  Now word is that the City wants to let artists exhibit their work at City Hall.   Those artists however will not be paid a rental fee or have their works purchased by the city.  Nor are there grants from the city to support the arts as there is no city arts coordinator, a position allegedly abolished after a failed attempt to subsidize the Cornwall Comets which ended in a Cornwall like fiasco.    A quote from another media covering the release:

“Artists will benefit by gaining some exposure while the City benefits from having our building enhanced with beautiful displays of art,” O’Shaughnessy said in a press release Friday.

“It is also a way for the City to show support for the arts and culture sector here in Cornwall.”

Earlier this year, council voted not to provide The Art Gallery of Cornwall (TAG) with any revenue that would allow its storefront neighbour to operate at full capacity.

The city’s media release explains the decision to hang local art at city hall evolved from initial discussions to decorate the mayor’s office.

Yet the City of Windsor, a community facing its own fiscal issues like many, is working towards an arts endowment of $2,000,000.00 spear headed by its mayor.  Windsor has not raised taxes in nearly a decade while Cornwall averages around a 2% per year increase during the same period.

Local artists have few true venues, and now are losing a charity that would have been celebrating its 30th year in the downtown core; itself struggling with business closing signage and empty store fronts.

From the Windsor Star:


“What I’ve seen in other cities I’ve been to is a highlighted presence of visual art that really gets people talking and makes the community a more interesting place,” Dilkens said Wednesday. “Arts and culture in our community have a very important role to play.”

Though Dilkens is perhaps better known for trumpeting big-ticket items such as sports tourism, he has long supported the arts, in particular local theatre. He’s a patron of the Windsor Light Music Theatre, and has seen productions from many other troupes.

When he was still a councillor, he donated $30,000 of his Ward 1 funds to a Ward 2 project, a coloured bronze sculpture of General Brock and Chief Tecumseh being created by sculptor Mark Williams for Paterson Park in Sandwich Town.

“When people see art they start thinking more about it and become more accepting of different kinds of art,” Dilkens said. “Even if you don’t like a certain project, it can still start a discussion, which is great.”

Clearly Windsor, or at least its mayor, has a greater appreciation and grasp of the arts.  Current Cornwall mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy has not been in the gallery,and may in fact have never stepped foot in it.   During the presentation for funding this year one councillor, Claude McIntosh, actually read a magazine during the detailed presentation by President Wyatt Walsh.

The City of Windsor actually has an Arts, Culture, and Heritage Fund.   Cornwall was only spending $55,000 per year to support the art gallery with almost no business sponsorship or other support.  Members had to run bingo’s to raise an extra $15K per year to help keep the doors open.

Windsor invested over $40,000 in a recent round of funding that put that cash directly into practicing artists and groups hands.

While it’s nice to get exposure, without investment and cash there cannot be any industry, and art is an industry which when done right leads to tourism dollars.    Over 60% of the sales of art at TAG Cornwall were to tourists with the gallery usually being the only tourist destination on Pitt Street which is the main thoroughfare of Cornwall’s downtown core.

The arts groups and artists themselves inflame the situation by fighting for the few crumbs from City Hall in Cornwall rather than working together to put pressure for more funding.

TAG protest FEB 9 2016 fb

(photo: facebook)

One group, Focus Art, actually discussed staging a coup to take over the gallery and instead picket it at budget deliberation time.   The City and Councilors Bernadette Clement and Maurice Dupelle actually sponsored a Focus Art event in a mall with a broken escalator rather than use the gallery for a month as has been done in the past.

There was actually more support to keep the gallery open from outside the community than within after City Hall refused to fund the gallery including shifting about $12 K that was supposed to go to the Lift Off Balloon festival that died coming to the gallery.

A group suggesting that it’s an Arts Council did not issue any statement to support the public art gallery knowing that losing its only art institution would be devastating and tragic.

An even bigger irony is that council approved funding for a study on creating an arts centre for the city even though there is no funding for said arts centre.   The Art Gallery, with archives running back to 1977, was not consulted.

In the end petty small town politics will impact generations of future artists as charities do not grow on trees, and are not as easy to set up as they were in 1980 when the Cornwall Gallery Society was formed.

What do you think dear CFN viewers?  You can post your comments below.



  1. Cornwall cannot even get to 50K in population and people have left in droves during my day and today young people have to leave. Seniors who go to Cornwall is a last resort type of a life – waiting to die and nothing will impress them at all. Even when I am ready to die I will never ever go to Cornwall to be buried at all. Lez has no taste in art at all – all show and small town politics stinks

  2. I agree with the article for the most part. But I find using Windsor as an example is a little misleading. Cornwall’s population, according to the 2011 census was 46k;Windsor’s population was almost 211k. A lot more can and should be done here in Cornwall for things other than sports. Yes, we are Canadian and enjoy our hockey. But the arts and other things people enjoy should be supported as well.

  3. Author

    Actually Hugger in 2015 TAG put together an art rental program, similar to what other galleries and museums offer. The city would have had the opportunity to rent art from local artists and its permanent collection which would have invested in supporting arts in the community. One councilor knew about the program and it’s ironic that the other media coined it “artinthecity” as he runs “Heart of the City.”

    Exploiting local artists for free is just wrong at a municipal level.

  4. Artists have a choice. If they don’t want their works displayed at city hall they can say no.

  5. It’s a shame that the Cornwall Regional Art Gallery (forget TAG) is not flourishing as it should.
    Our citizens should be encouraged with an appreciation for the arts, by having a gallery that sponsors art in schools, by sponsoring the ever popular “paint nights”, as well as displaying local artists’ works in the gallery.

  6. Author

    Denise groups like Focus Art have essentially enabled the politicians to make decisions that in the end will most likely kill the gallery. The board of Focus Art actually picketed the night TAG was having a public consultation to try and save the gallery.

  7. Rossi Glass on seventh street was a bus tourist destination (now a pool company). Alexandria has the closest glass blowing business that I am aware of. Arts in general have been declining in Cornwall for the almost three decades that I have been in the area. Any artist hanging their work for FREE in city hall will certainly not garner my respect. Desperation wears an ugly face.

  8. Author

    Actually Eric Covington of Priest’s Mill Glass in Alexandria that you mention campaigned for two years for the gallery to not get its funding after he resigned from its board of his own Conflict of Interest. Artists have become their own worst enemies in this community because of politicians having some of them fight for what little crumbs of support came from local governments. It’s ugly.

  9. Claude MacIntosh’s lack of respect in the meeting speaks loudly of his lack of manners and class and the company that he keeps (Cornwall’s dysfunctional mayor and council). Long Sault is fast becoming the destination of choice. The arts should be considering relocating to this more vital, progressive and expanding community. IMHO

  10. Author

    David South Stormont doesn’t support the arts any better. There has been a lot of suggestions that the reason City Council has cut funding for two years to the art gallery and now risks seeing a charity of 36 years lost to the community simply because I am on the gallery’s board. Even though I’ve clearly stated that I was leaving the gallery entirely at the end of 2016 they still choose to not only not fund it, but not even put its events on the city facebook page. Add in the city and Councilors Dupelle and Clement personally sponsoring a Focus Art show in a mall with a broken escalator and no easy access for seniors who make up the largest demographic, and a “reasonable” person could draw some pretty clear conclusions. Add in how Bob Peters refused to add my to the list of film makers to the Cornwall website, instead promoting his friend’s whose only work seemed to be that funded by Mr. Peters via your tax dollars and it shows the nature and state of arts funding and support in our community.

  11. Hugger1 the arts generally appeal to a level of sophistication that is generally void in Cornwall. The reality is that only approximately 10% of the Cornwall population has any post secondary education. This represents a major handicap to not only the arts unfortunately.

  12. David, I never realised that that a post secondary education was necessary in order to appreciate art. I learn something every day….

  13. Art is mostly appreciated by the educated people and that is the truth. I am an artist in my own way my quilting and it is both an art and a craft depending on how you look at it. I love paintings very much but I do not appreciate modern art (those of you who are acquainted with it know what I mean) but I enjoy the classics and beautiful scenery. I would love to be able to draw and paint.

  14. You will all see the quilt that Jamie posted and it isn’t of my taste at all but I remember seeing one in pastels with bigger pieces and beautiful embroidery. The colors in the quilt that Jamie posted is very Victorian with the reds and blacks, etc. I am working on my second GFG (piecing) for my daughter and my arthritis is killing me. Art of all kinds is hard work.

  15. Jamie Cornwall lis a mighty strange and weird town and the people do not appreciate what you do for them. I can assure you that the toilet papers of record are going to disappear. Take a good look at where the printing presses are and all that is the beginning of the end. Computers have taken over the media, etc. Movies are made by computers today. The past is the past.

  16. Jamie Lift off and so much more has disappeared and the town deserves to lose everything. Long Sault, Ingleside, Morrisburg and the other tiny towns are great places to live and work but HOLY TOLEDO not Cornwall at all. Cornwall is a cesspool and it stinks and that is the truth. The town is full of carcenogens that can never go away for hundreds if not thousands of years to come.

  17. Some like Cornwall, some don’t. Just like some like big cities like Ottawa, etc. And some don’t I like Cornwall. I don’t like Ottawa. To each their own.

    As for the CSF going away it won’t happen any time soon. PostMedia is making too much money from it.

  18. Furtz you are acting like a troll. First off my comment as clearly indicated was directed to Hugger1. Secondly the statement was “generally” and clearly not alluded to being a prerequisite. Either you are being deliberately confrontational or are having some cognitive issues. Maybe there is yet another explanation?

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