The Rodman Hall Alliance calls on Brock University to withdraw its recently announced plans to remove Rodman Hall’s art collection to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Art (MIWSFPA) and repurpose Rodman Hall for commercial use.
Moving the art museum to a new, multipurpose space raises multiple problems for certification, public access and sustainability. “Brock University's proposed strategy is disastrous for St. Catharines’ nationally renowned public art museum,” states Alliance member Rebecca Cann. “We believe Brock has underestimated the complexities, costs and risks of moving the public art museum function and collection to the MIWSFPA. The end result will be the loss of the only professional art museum in St. Catharines, one of only two in Niagara.”
Brock University acquired the building, grounds and art collection in 2003 for two dollars, and in a signed agreement with the Rodman Hall board of directors, committed to operating the venue as an art gallery for at 20 years. “Brock's new plans do not fulfill the covenants of the 2003 agreement between the community and Brock University.” says alliance member Sandy Middleton. The agreement includes important restrictions such as those that limit the Rodman Hall property to use as a public art gallery and for charitable purposes.
Rodman Hall Art Centre is an award-winning regional public art museum that has operated for 60 years as the principal art museum for Niagara, providing excellence in visual arts programming and education. It is nationally certified as a 'category A' institution under the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. This status is designated to museum facilities with the professional standards and staff needed to maintain, preserve and exhibit a significant art collection. The majority of Rodman Hall’s art collection has been gifted to the institute by members of the local community.
The Rodman Hall Alliance was formed in 2016 when Brock first floated the option of selling Rodman Hall during public consultations. The public outcry that resulted led the university to bring together three distinct ad hoc entities connected to Rodman Hall, including the newly formed Rodman Hall Alliance. The university worked with this group to conduct community consultations, evaluate options and ultimately hire consultants to undertake a feasibility study outlining plans to transition Rodman Hall back to community ownership and management.
This study was finalized in the fall of 2018 and has not been publicly released by the university’s administration. “After three years of collectively working towards a different future for the art museum, the university’s recent announcement comes as a shock,” states Middleton. “We appreciate the current provincial government’s cuts to university tuition has resulted in a significant budget deficit facing the university, but why stop working with your partners to find an alternate solution?”
Rodman Hall Alliance is a volunteer group whose aim is to support Rodman Hall Arts Centre in its current location as a vital and multifaceted community asset. In light of Brock University's stated desire to end its stewardship of Rodman Hall in 2023, the Alliance supports renewed community partnerships to share Rodman Hall's assets and take responsibility for its management and financial obligations. For more information visit: www.rodmanhallalliance.ca Contact at: email@example.com
Brock’s Plans are Questioned
Brock’s Plan: "Locate Rodman Hall’s permanent collection into class-A certified storage and display space at Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA) in downtown St. Catharines."
What are the expected costs and timeline for creation of storage, preparation, exhibition and administrative space necessary to support a regional public art museum?
Has the University undertaken the necessary application for category A status for transfer of the art collection into new facilities?
Will the University maintain appropriate staffing requirements for operation of a class-A art museum?
Brock’s plan: "offer 2,000 sq. ft. of gallery space at the MIWSFPA"
Given that Rodman Hall added 4,000 sq. ft. of gallery space to its facility in 1973 to receive national gallery designation, how will Brock preserve Category A status with 2,000 sq. ft.?
How will the new art museum requirements impact MIWSFPA facilities which were built to carefully identified specifications?
Will 2,000 plus sq. ft. be renovated within the existing footprint of the school or will Brock undertake to build new space?
Brock’s Plan: "transfer the Rodman Hall art collection to a community transition group, who would display the collection throughout Niagara"
What does Brock mean by "throughout Niagara"? We are not aware of other category A exhibition spaces in Niagara that could meet loan conditions required as set by the Canadian Cultural Properties Review and Export Board.
Brock’s Plan: "Create a new downtown 'culture commons' with up to 7,000 sq. ft. for arts organizations and community partners"
Is Brock offering to lead the planning, development and build of a multipurpose facility?
Was Brock aware that other local arts organizations have been pursuing a similar initiative for more than a year?
Has Brock consulted with the arts organizations currently investigating this idea?
What funds will Brock contribute to this suggested partnership?
Why won’t Brock use those funds to preserve Rodman Hall as an art museum for the next four years?
How does this offer mitigate the loss of Rodman Hall to the arts community and, more importantly, to the visual art-going community?
Brock’s Plan: "negotiate with a heritage property company to operate Rodman Hall under the restrictions that protect the historical integrity of its architecture and grounds, and with the potential to include a dedicated art gallery space…Brock envisions a commercially sustainable Rodman Hall . . ."
How much income will Brock generate from their new use of Rodman Hall?
Rodman Hall is a charitable cultural property that was transferred to Brock as a charitable institution. How does Brock reconcile the commercial use of a charitable asset?
Is Brock planning to sell Rodman Hall in 2023 to this undisclosed private company?
Brock’s Statement: "since 2014 has paid about $300,000 for studies to develop a divestment plan for Rodman Hall." Alliance Questions:
Brock has spent funds on studies by expert museum and cultural consultants whose recommendations – the Lundholm Report (2010), the Barlow Report (2015) and the Bogusky/Pappert Report (2018) – have not been implemented. Why?
In these reports, partnerships have been identified as essential to the future of Rodman Hall. What efforts has Brock made to identify and approach possible community partners?