The decision to allow Laurentian to sell the art collection in the gallery disappoints the community

There is disillusionment and anxiety among the arts community in Sudbury.

It followed a court ruling this week allowing Laurentian University to sell the art collection at the Sudbury Art Gallery.

The ruling also allows the post-secondary school to sell the Bell Mansion property where the Sudbury Art Gallery currently resides. A schedule has been given to allow the gallery time to move to its new home within the city’s proposed East Intersection Centre.

But the potential sale of the $4.8 million art collection, which Laurentian said she won’t consider until after the creditor protection process is over, is moving the arts community.

“The fact that it has become a usable commodity for who knows what is a bit annoying,” said Linda Cartier, former chair of the Sudbury Arts Council.

“Definitely a value [the art] This is not a dollar value that is important to society, she added.

Cartier explained that some of the artwork in the collection is local, and some are “basic Canadian pieces.”

“It’s a huge part of who we are,” she said.

In many cases, [the art] It was given or received in various ways and the people who were doing it wouldn’t have thought that it would take place in the auction arena at some point, but more than that it would be there for the people of Northern Ontario to enjoy and to attract other people to our area.”

When the Sudbury Arts Council was first publicizing its concerns about the potential sale of Bell Mansion properties and artwork, several families of artists whose works are part of the collection submitted letters of concern.

“They were not happy that it was a possible way to solve Laurentian University’s financial difficulties,” Cartier said. “It was meant to be there for people to enjoy the fairs.”

Danielle Tremblay is the director of la Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (GNO). She says she was shocked to hear that the art collection at the Sudbury Art Gallery could be sold to pay off the debts of Laurentian University. (Angela Gemmell/CBC)

“This is gallery property,” said Danielle Tremblay, director of La Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (GNO). “Artists have submitted their artworks to a gallery, not for Laurentian University’s profit to get rid of debt.”

“It represents the artists of the North. It is their story. It is our story. It belongs to the community.”

If Laurentian offered the artwork for sale, Tremblay said GNO doesn’t have the budget or the space to buy it.

A woman standing in front of a colored background.
Alex Fouz is an independent curator and former curator of the WKP Kennedy Museum in North Bay. (Provided by Alix Voz)

“This collection represents the history of our region,” said Alex Fouz, independent curator and former director of WKP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay.

“Visual art is cultural artifacts and is evidence of our history, and it tells a story that perhaps books cannot properly tell or tell in the same way.”

Voz is concerned that the Art Gallery of Sudbury’s collection will be separated piece by piece.

“Knowing their value and knowing that these artworks are in great demand, it’s not like they’re going to have a problem finding buyers,” she said.

“My concern is to find buyers who are willing to either keep their artwork public or access it in a public way, or make sure they really take care of them.”

“Art, culture, and visual culture are much more than dollar signs,” Fouz said.

“If these things are sold out or we lose them publicly, it’s like we’re losing a piece of our visual history,” she said.

“I know they will still be there, and I know they will still be there, but I think having them in our home in northern Ontario and being so cherished and on display, is the strength of those cultural artifacts.”

Artwork by members of the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian landscape artists, is included in the collection at the Sudbury Art Gallery. (Yvonne Thierault/Radio Canada)

“The whole group of 4.8 million people, I’m not sure everyone would have an interest in buying the whole group, so my concern is the potential sale piece by piece,” said city councilman Al Sizer, who is also a city councilor. Member of the Board of Directors of the Sudbury Art Gallery.

“I am not sure there is much interest in buying [the whole collection] for private use”.

Sizer said he was pleased that the court ruling provided time for the Sudbury art gallery to move into its new space at Junction East Center before selling the Bell Mansion building and property.

This project is still on track for completion in 2024.

In an email to CBC News, Dimitra Christakos, director and curator at Sudbury Art Gallery, said there was still a legal document to implement, and a public statement was still being finalized.

Laurentian must give the gallery 90 days’ notice if he intends to sell any artwork.

“We can’t have an art gallery without art”

If the post-high school decides to sell the artwork to help pay off debts to its creditors, City Councilman Robert Kirwan wants the city to buy it for the new gallery space in Junction East.

“We can’t have an art gallery without art,” he said.

Kirwan said that if Laurentian decides to sell the art collection, the city should be ready to respond.

“When you get this notice, we have to know because we can’t sell this art,” he said.

“If the payment started and the city had to buy art, we wouldn’t have a facility close to $100 million without art.”

Kirwan believes this issue will be discussed at the next city council meeting, scheduled for June 28. If the city decides to buy art for the gallery, he said, the money may come from debt financing, reserves, or other avenues.

“If we have to find [the money]I know the staff will be able to find it.”

When all the smoke clears that art should stay in Sudbury.Robert Kirwan, Greater Sudbury City Council Member

“When all the smoke clears that art should stay in Sudbury,” Kirwan said.

Tremblay said a city purchase of the art collection would be a good solution.

“It would be great for the group to stay in Sudbury, and if the city is willing to invest in that, I mean we’re keeping our own,” she said.

But Tremblay added that the scenario seems absurd.

“It’s almost ridiculous for society, for Sudbury, to have to buy something of their own at first, but if that’s the solution to keeping the art well, that would be great.”

Laurentian University has not yet explained any plans it might have for the Bell Palace or the art collection. The university declined to give an interview, but sent a written comment that it attributed to President Robert Hash.

“We are proud of Laurentian University’s art collection,” the statement read. “We are grateful to the curators of the artworks donated to the university and which the university has purchased over the past 60 years.

“We recently resolved a dispute raised by the Sudbury Art Gallery which includes an acknowledgment that the art collection is not owned or owned by the Art Gallery. As part of this settlement, Laurentian has agreed to allow the Art Gallery to continue to occupy Bell Palace under current terms until no later than May 2025, and that any The sale of Belle Mansion by Laurentian would not be completed until that time.”

Laurentian goes on to say that the full terms of the decision are reflected in the judge’s written endorsement, available on the website of the court-appointed observer who oversees Laurentian’s bankruptcy.

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