Rodman Group calls on St. Catharines to invest in new downtown public art gallery

The group of volunteers aiming to open a new public art gallery for Rodman Hall’s 1,000-piece collection has asked St. Catharines City Council for help with start-up costs.

Councilors were in favor of having a public art gallery downtown on Monday night, but still had a few questions from staff before committing the $ 75,000 in funds to the 2022 operating budget.

N’ora Kalb, vice-president of the volunteer, community and nonprofit Rodman Art Institute of Niagara – formerly Rodman Hall Art Center Inc. – said an upfront investment was essential for the project.

The contribution will signal the city’s wish for a new public art gallery, allowing the Rodman Art Institute to lay a solid foundation towards sustainability, she said.

“The city’s belief in this will bring others to the table. It’s really about building a local, regional or national business and, thanks to the city’s contribution, it unlocks funding from many other sources – other levels of government, arts councils, foundations and communities. philanthropic organizations.

Council heard that the funds would be used for community and stakeholder consultations and the strategic planning required to establish a new public art gallery.

A report from city staff said the group’s request was made after staff had already prepared the proposed operating budget for the council, so it is not currently included. If the amount were to be added, it would represent about $ 1.07 or 0.06% property tax increase on a median household in 2022.

Council asked staff instead to identify a source of funding for the $ 75,000 in 2022 and report back. They also asked for information on the role that comparator municipalities have with their local art galleries and what the city’s responsibility would be with the gallery in the long term.

Rodman Art Institute president Jean Bridge said that with the Meridian Center and FirstOntario Performing Arts Center already downtown, a public art gallery is the missing piece of the puzzle.

“We think, and I think many do, that this complements the downtown cultural and entertainment corridor,” Bridge said. “A new gallery should not be seen in isolation. It’s part of an ecosystem that includes culture, entertainment, tourism, and business.

Bridge said that an art gallery is a destination accessible to a large and diverse set of communities. This can stimulate new ideas and provide services and programs that are not necessarily currently covered by the city, she said.

“We have the opportunity to reinvent what an art gallery can be,” she told advisers. “It can take new and innovative forms, be more participatory and more deeply engaging, and that’s what we hope we can do here. “

The Rodman Hall Art Gallery was established in 1960 and was located at Rodman Hall on St. Paul Crescent. In 2003, Brock University purchased the building for $ 2 from a struggling nonprofit group with a commitment that it would continue to operate it as an art gallery for 20 years.

In 2015, Brock announced his intention to end his management of the gallery, citing financial reasons and its lack of use.

The building was sold to a developer in October 2020.

The Rodman Art Institute was formed to look after the art collection and establish a new public art gallery in St. Catharines. It has submitted an application for charitable status to the Canada Revenue Agency and expects to receive a response in the spring of 2022.

Once it becomes a registered charity, Brock will donate the entire art collection, two endowments valued at nearly $ 1 million, and provide up to $ 700,000 for the collection, storage and maintenance for up to five years.

A staff report says the collection includes works by famous European artists such as Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Henry Moore, but mainly focuses on historical and contemporary Canadian artists such as the Group of Seven.

Until the group has a building, they plan to function as a gallery without walls with digital, temporary and pop-up art projects to keep the collection visible.

The Rodman Institute has asked the city for three-year funding.

In addition to the $ 75,000 in 2022, a request for $ 100,000 has been made for 2023 and $ 125,000 for 2024. The additional funds would be used for a needs assessment and market analysis, site selection, the feasibility study and the development of partnerships for the capital project.

Kalb said the city supported Rodman Hall for many years through a funding deal until 2003 when Brock took over the gallery.

“A public art gallery is important to St. Catharines,” Kalb said. “We want and must protect the collection in perpetuity. “

In August, city council approved spending $ 133,905 from the Civic Project Fund for the removal, storage and eventual relocation of six outdoor sculptures from the grounds of Rodman Hall to various locations downtown under a 20 year lease.


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William E. Bennett

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