Former art gallery members have a message: maybe time to let it die

Former art gallery members have a message: maybe time to let it die
The Art Gallery (TAG) - Cornwall.

CORNWALL, Ontario – With the future of The Art Gallery – Cornwall set to be debated next week some former board members have a simple message: let it die and create something else.

The Art Gallery (TAG) will hold a meeting to solicit opinions from members and the public at large about its future, but Eric Covington – one of many who spent time on the executive before resigning – said it’s time to move on.

“It may be time to let it die and create TAG 2,” he said. “They may be trying to resuscitate a dead horse.”

Covington qualified his remarks by pointing out he has no idea the financial status of TAG, though he presumes it isn’t good.

Other artists whom Seaway News reached out to have voiced similar opinions, but do not wish to attach their names to public comments.

TAG has been plagued with leadership issues in recent years, with its former executive director Sylvie Lizotte and the board openly disagreeing. Lizotte was terminated by the board which resulted in a lawsuit that was eventually settled out of court.

New boards have been similarly dysfunctional with members “trespassed” from the property, including Covington and others who have been told not to return.

Last year it appeared as though city council had had enough, effectively ending a municipal funding mechanism for the embattled gallery, despite an $85,000 request again this year for money.

Covington said it could be time to let TAG wither, before starting again with new blood and a new vision for arts in Cornwall.

Wyatt Walsh, chair of TAG, was having none of that and suggested the art gallery could continue into the future if it continues to bring in outside attractions.

“I can keep bringing people in from outside the community and keep paying the bills forever…but that’s not what I want to do,” he said. “The place is not designed for us to bring in outside talent.

“It’s there for the local artists.”

And he had an earful for city councillors, despite the fact some of them will sit in judgment on TAG’s $85,000 funding request next week.

“No one on these councils can see beyond the next election,” he said. “They only care about it when there’s an election and they stand up and say ‘I support the arts.’

“If they don’t give funding…they don’t understand the benefits.”

Walsh was also critical of some artists, to a degree, and suggested a more unified approach to promoting the arts community would pay dividends.

“They are good artists but not good business people. They couldn’t run a marathon,” he said, adding if the plan is to let TAG die and create something new he would be supportive – to a point. “You know what, as far as I’m concerned…if anyone of them could come up with a solid plan…I’d stand right behind them and say yes.”

Covington said creating a solid platform of governance is a good place to start if TAG is to survive, as well as collaborations with other arts groups, like Your Arts Council (YAC) as an example.

“If YAC were given the opportunity to clean up TAG’s mess then it could happen,” he said.

Walsh said TAG and other groups like YAC have had a difficult time prying dollars from municipal sources – compounding the problem of sustainability, from their perspective.

“What I see is an arts committee that is fractured,” he said. “I’m fighting to get the same crumbs (YAC) is getting.”

TAG’s meeting goes Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at its Pitt Street locale.

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