Talking Art in Cornwall & It’s Not Too Late For City to Ditch BOM Building Farce. By Jamie Gilcig 072519

Only in Cornwall can the weird get this weird.

What we have is a city that historically has not supported the arts. Right now they are paying more to keep a building empty than they gave to keep its former public art gallery open.

The city should not be in the art business. They should however support the arts. It should be artist driven; not feeble minded corrupt politicians QB’g the process; especially when there is art blood over the main protagonists hands and at least two on council who broke the law while on the former art gallery’s board.

Background. I received a call from the gallery’s former direction asking for help because of Elaine MacDonald and Carilyne Hebert who had hijacked the gallery board along with some friends and family.

The director gave me solid evidence and proof of both breaking the law. It took one phone call to Elaine and she and the board resigned.

At a salvage meeting that was poorly attended I myself ended up on the board.

It was a hot mess. However, skipping the minutiae I ended up not only saving the gallery but keeping it open for two more very long years during which time we put on 3 major shows including Canada’s Legendary Terry Mosher “Aislin” and Melody Maker Photographer Barrie Wentzell who was so impressed with the job I was doing he donated $5K more of his work to the gallery and eventually joined our board.

We also gave out the largest cash prizes for a competition for artists.

The mantra for me; sadly not for people like Roland Besner, one of our former Presidents who said in a board meeting before resigning:


I think Mr. Besner may be suffering from dementia, but I digress.

The mantra while I was present was once you walked through the gallery’s front door the only thing that mattered was art.

Our current mayor, also in council at the time, denied us a smidgen of cash when Lift Off folded (under her watch as well). She claimed we had issues with our charter/governance which was a lie as we had informed council of the new charter that was up to speed and was supposed to be done long before, but she, who was supposed to have worked on it, never finished the chore.

And her council killed the gallery’s funding to ZERO. We worked on reserves and steam for those few years.

The knives were out because basically Cornwall, SD&G, & Akwesasne really don’t care all that much about art. It falls into politics which it never should.

I was able to get outside funding to keep us going due to some of my kind and generous artist friends, but pulled back after the Focus Art board

picketed the gallery at a meeting we were having to come up with future solutions as I’d shared clearly that I was finished as of the end of 2016.

Running a newspaper and gallery are a lot of work and I was burning out.

So even though council and the so called local art community knew that I’d be done within the year; they dug their heels in and the gallery closed.

In fact we’d offered the Permanent Art Collection; valued at over $700K, to the city for the $14K or though we owed before closing which the city refused twice. While the collection clearly wasn’t worth that much, it certainly was worth more than $14K and could’ve been used to raise monies if they really wanted an art centre. (There were plans for one since 1995 which no action)

Now we have Bernie and her friends buying the old BMO bank in shadows for nearly $500K. They want to spend another $6M or more to build a black box theatre in it.

Cornwall doesn’t need a black box theatre, and if it did then it should be on the ground floor or basement of the Public Library which the city already spend a few million dollars per year supporting. We have tax paying theatre owners with space available. The little bit of amateur theatre we have could be sponsored or subsided rather than spend $6M plus support forever for a tiny spot.

Bernie and the city are so hypocritical about supporting the arts that they brag about having art in City Hall; with the lights off and no compensation to the artists who sadly silently eat it up like those poor souls that eat mud cakes in poor countries.

It’s boggling. But sadly typical for this group led by Bernie & Elaine. You don’t mess with the Pink Mafia in Cornwall!

But here’s the thing. None of this is practical and will be a Pink Elephant for the city who if they go through with the BOM project will now have to maintain and staff it.

A better plan would simply take that $6M and create a fund. About 5% interest per year would create a $300K per year fund approximately that could be invested in the arts in the Cornwall area.

That would be huge. It could put cash in artists hands, even with low interest loans for creation or exhibition. It could give some cash to a group that actually created its own art space. You could do a lot with that and gasp! Even grow the fund.

Yes it’s would be politically corrupt like most other things of this nature, but it would still accomplish more and waste less.

The monies raised so far could go into a separate corporation and if they want an art centre let them raise their own funds. Heck, let the city donate some dosh, but the plan on the table is utter insanity, bad management and fiscal abuse of the taxpayer. It’s worse even than the Benson Centre fiasco!

This is what happens when you have weak leadership with no vision and a mayor who can’t count!

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