Syd Gardiner & Elaine MacDonald Hypocrites When It Comes to Art in Cornwall – by Jamie Gilcig Feb 2, 2018

CORNWALL ONTARIO – In an I’m sure unintentional  bizarre joke the Seaway News ran a piece trumpeting a scrolling image on a TV in the basement of the Civic complex as a triumph for area artists.

There are a few real artists in the region, but most have stayed away from the circus.

Elaine was on the board of the Cornwall Public Art Gallery which existed for 36 year until she played a key role in its demise.

After she, and current councilor Carilyne Hebert broke the law while on the board of the gallery, which resulted in their resignations, they sat silent and not only allowed the gallery to close, but also refused to respond to the gallery offering its permanent collection to be sold to the city for the galleries remaining liabilities of less than $15,000 when it closed.   The value on the books for the collection was just about $700,000.00 although its market value was much less.    The City and the Woodhouse Museum also refused the free donation of artifacts and historical memorabilia from the gallery and the communities art history.

Syd Gardiner was asked to help save the gallery as well, but refused.

The cost of having the full time gallery on Pitt Street was less than $1600 per month.   It could have been run by a group of volunteers without a paid director, but Focus Art never stepped up.  They did conspire at one point to take over the gallery, which they could have done at any time legally, but instead when their conspiracy failed, picketed a meeting to try and save the gallery.

Council, which had cut off funding the gallery, played some three card monte giving a portion of the gallery’s yearly funding to the farcical art’s council which again Elaine played a large role in founding.

Artists in the end have suffered under the support of Ms MacDonald.   Contrary to the SN story the arts scene has never been worse in the city.

The problem is that the culture of Cornwall extends to a group of its local artist which tends to alienate real artists who have shared with this writer that they just didn’t want to go to their circus.  Ignorance, bullying, and petty stupidity rarely lead to success.   The inability to work together has held back the art community as it has other areas of city life.  Exclusion, rather than inclusion is not a recipe which yields rewards.

One artist just yesterday said that they left Focus Art because of its failings.

There were city plans for an arts centre going back to 1995 which never occurred.   Essentially the city lost its only art asset because of ignorance, petty corruption, and self serving.  Tracy Davies, a highly medicated former nurse,  pictured above (on the right end) for example, opened up her own gallery a short distance from where the former gallery was.

The last board of the gallery, of which this writer was a member of, was actually able to find outside funding to keep the gallery alive through 2016, but after the pathetic performance of Focus Art picketing the gallery, an arts council refusing to help save the gallery, and a city that was so disrespectful of the arts that during the galleries funding presentation one councilor read a magazine on camera in session, that those willing to help the arts from outside Cornwall that were willing to write large cheques were simply asked to stand down because their generosity wasn’t matched by the community.

Even Scotia Bank, which is donating to this current farce of the dream of an Art Centre, didn’t not once help the gallery or sponsor any of its major events during the 2015/16 period.

Politics should never really enter the realm of arts.   A community without a strong art scene simply has no soul, and sadly the City of Cornwall has no real art scene.

The building of the former art gallery could have been purchased for less than $300K.  It would’ve given the city a downtown gallery, multi media exhibition space, studio space, and even a small cafe.  And in the future would be a financial asset towards a possible larger Art Centre.  It would have had life in the downtown core that simply doesn’t exist any longer.   Even the Grind is shuttering, a coffee shop that tried in its minute way to support the arts.

Instead we have a gaping hole that a TV screen in the basement of the Civic Complex can never replace.


  1. Arrggghhhh!!!!!

  2. Cornwall’s one book store is a Coles, and we’ve a former S-F “scribbler” on the library board who once bemoaned paying for a library since we have the internet.

    No fear of a highbrow reputation in Cornwall, where becoming everything one is capable of becoming starts with eyebrows …then nails, tanning, esthetics, spas, tattoos.

    Self-improvement in Cornwall is so easy …and so “cheap”.

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