Afterimage: Uneven Echoes

I wanted a dialectic between one’s perception of the place in totality and one’s own relation to the field as walked…a way of measuring oneself against the indeterminacy of the land. I am not interested in looking at sculpture which is solely defined by its internal relationships. (Richard Serra)

Simplicity of form is not necessarily simplicity of experience. (Robert Morris)

Afterimage fills all the galleries at Rodman and is on display all summer. The two “side rooms” that have been in play for the last few exhibitions have been amalgamated into one larger space (in the rear of Rodman), and this serves Afterimage well. Gayle Young’s audio (Cedar Cliff- “oo”) wafts out over the space, and the denseness and richness of John Noestheden’s paintings (or sculptures – we’ll explore that momentarily – titled, respectively Spaceline 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d) are balanced by the emptiness between and around them. Reinhard Reitzenstein’s 6000 laser cut trees, one of which would easily fit in your hand, made of recycled paper that creep like ivy upwards and outwards (in Ghost Willow) also employs a denseness balanced by gaps that allows for a conversation between the artists. It’s not that the artworks in the side gallery, closer to the front, aren’t worthy. But the rear gallery functions so well in terms of its curated installation (unsurprisingly, if you remember Gunilla Josephson’s exhibition Houses and Whispers, as that show was also curated by Marcie Bronson) that it’s where I find myself, with every visit.

Noestheden’s works in this back space are acrylic on aluminum, with “stardust” mixed in. Their execution and texture are earthy, like furrows of mud. The forms – too solid, to be painting – resemble earth works or dirt mounds, in colours that alternately suggest “black earth” or others in powerful primaries (the yellow Spaceline 6 shimmers reflection “in” the floor, so it’s like the floor work Spaceline 13 that stretches out is a diptych to the mirrored work, or like all “three” function from floor to wall to floor again, to remaining in our eyes after we look elsewhere….). Others are in pale blue (higher up, in a corner, almost to be missed) and another is lower, on the same wall but opposite end, in a reddish chartreuse. These softer tones seems too delicate for the whorls and chunks and bumps that form these acrylics and mixed media on aluminum blocks of paint and minerals.

The trio of artists here don’t interact in a prescribed manner, nor a fully equal manner: despite my praise of his works in the back gallery space, Noestheden’s work in the front two rooms is the weakest, and his repeated citation of “stardust” and other ideas during the tripart artists talk served to make his work less interesting and more affected or pretentious. Perhaps the weight he attached to this lecture about his pieces was inversely proportionate to how uninteresting they are visually.

 Its unsurprising that he spent so much time on the Prairies: there’s more than a little of the self involved Karaoke Modernist in his work, mistaking aspects that are perhaps important to him as being universally so, or that by the citation of the term “stardust” that it might have wider or deeper meaning. His works in the front rooms (Artefact Echoes or 1389 Breaths) are failures visually, and any larger pedantic prose doesn’t remedy that, though some of the pieces improve by association with the works by Reinhard, leeching some meaning and depth from Seed Tree or Forest Emerging. Perhaps this is also why the front rooms are less impressive than the back one: Noestheden has some quality in the front rooms by implication, whereas in the back gallery all three artists function as one larger installation.

This high ceilinged and predominantly empty room, wide and high, is the dominant and dominating gallery: an engaging and visually exciting environment that seems sparse, but isn’t.

Gayle Young (whose history is impressive) spoke eloquently and simply about her audio works, offering some nuance and depth, and options to how we might experience it. Rodman itself is intrinsic to the melded experiential audio (“the resonance of the building is important”), and there’s a spot where you can hear all three “streams” flow together. Young declared the sound as much “ours” as hers, and “you create your own mix by moving through the space” through her “swathe of noise” sampled / assembled from the Bruce Trail in Grimsby (from river and highway to raindrops and fauna and other walked ambience…). While standing in the back space, Reinhard offered the following, encompassing Afterimage in its entirety: “All these works are derivative of memory, of larger ideas, of past experiences, of pasts both universal and personal.”

Reitzenstein’s Willow is meant to evoke how a gigantic willow was removed to facilitate the back expansion of Rodman Hall, and he spoke of how its roots are surely still under the floor of the gallery in back of the building. His works in public space, from the Lutz Teutloff Collection at Brock University, or around the Niagara region all “observe and chronicle trees under siege. Displaced by architecture and manufacturing, they adapt to changing and extreme environmental conditions, supported by mutual relationships within their ecological communities.” Ghost Willows is a memento mori: just as Young’s work is an echo, a recording, of a temporal and remembered, now past, experience. The chunkiness of Noestheden (Spaceplot F) to the recycled, disposable components of Reitzenstein (needing to be repaired, sometimes replaced, daily) to the ephemera of Young’s audio (Cedar Cliff- “ah” or Cedar Cliff- “ee”) that fills the space – and none of it – is an enjoyable dialogue of remembrance: what has been, what was, what is all meet and highlight their similarities, and contrast their differences.

An afterimage, by definition, is an ephemeral thing: sometimes it exists only in memory, or as a degraded version of the original, like the spots we see after staring at the sun. It’s almost an act of negation more than affirmation: what it references is, by definition, gone, no longer existing, solely in memory. Its past: and the past is fleeting. The formal definition is “a visual image or other sense impression that persists after the stimulus that caused it is no longer operative.”

This Afterimage will be visible until the 20th of August, 2017, at Rodman Hall; it will be followed by Material Girls, a show touring from the Dunlop in Regina.

 

Part 8. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

While interviewing members of the new Rodman Hall Coalition these past few weeks, hoping to offer an update of what’s happening as 2023 nears, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that a positive sense informed most conversations. In talking to representatives of the coalition, with members from both the Rodman Hall Alliance, the previously mentioned Art Gallery of Niagara ad hoc group, under the aegis of Tom Goldspinks (asked to shepherd the group as chairman, both for his experience running the TAG Art Gallery but also his significant governance experience), there seemed to be faith that Brock University was (finally) cognisant of the larger picture. Granted, concerns regarding sustainability, and that the community here no longer has the option to be spectators, but need to be actors, and that there’s serious work to be done, were recurring themes. Even debates around the term “divestment” suggested that many at Brock wanted to support Rodman more effectively, rather than rush towards a divorce.

Then, on April 18, Brock responded to an applicant for the Director position at Rodman (which has stood vacant, in one sense, since Stuart Reid resigned nearly a year ago, but has really meant more responsibility without appropriate reward for acting Director / Chief Curator Marcie Bronson) with the following: “Due to recent internal movement and reorganization at Brock University, we will no longer be pursuing a search for this position.”

Realistically, any steps required towards redefining Rodman Hall, post (or in a new relationship with) Brock, will require strong, informed and community – engaged leadership. This suggests further tone deafness, bordering on the benign negligence and incompetence that was rife in the Interkom “consultations”, and that can be seen as a pattern, since 2003.

The Mendel Art Gallery / later Remai Modern in Saskatoon went without a proper director for an extended period as the former became the latter, and this caused major issues with finance, planning, priority and employment that were harder to fix and were preventable. But I’ll quote the source again: “Unbelievable that the university believes internal admin shifts will meet the requirements of the situation to transition the art museum from it to the community. Unbelievable that when so many of us are contributing our volunteer efforts towards a successful transition, the University cannot support our [efforts] by a full staff complement. Unbelievable that the Acting Director/Curator continues to be unsupported by the university’s decisions.”

However, to cite one of the members of the RH Coalition, it’s good to remember that Brock (the “unaccountable 13th Floor”) reconsidered before, with the Interkom debacle. So, let’s focus on the more positive aspects of what the new group is trying to do, and what it means – and what it demands – of the larger community, the cultural and civic stakeholders. At the time of writing this, Tom Goldspinks was meeting with Tom Arkell regarding this decision (Arkell is a coalition member, as well, but appointed by Brock). Updates (as always) are forthcoming.
Its regrettable, however, as at least one coalition member has spoken of resigning, if no director is hired….

The coalition has three committees, and these are essentially concerned with establishing both the status of Rodman Hall at this time, and potential models for what it will become. Elizabeth Chitty is heading the legal / governance committee, and has already begun research of alternate models for community run galleries, as well as exploring models of governance for RH, post 2023. Giulia Forsythe and Liz Hayden (whom began the Save Rodman Hall petition last Fall) are responsible for community outreach, to restore and strengthen what Goldspink refers to as the fabric between RH and the larger community. David Vivian, Director of the MIWSFPA is heading the financial committee: Brock and RH have been intertwined for some time, and working out actual costs, genuine expenditures, etc., without the inflation or confabulation that was a hallmark of the Interkom evenings is in the hands of Vivian, here.

This coalition’s goal is that by early 2018, a board of directors will be in place, with a governance model that offers a stepping stone to what Rodman will be, and these can be presented to a community that needs to step up if this asset is to be preserved and grow.  Issues of membership, accountability – and the major question of sustainability – are being resolved, and input is not only desired, but required (rodmanhallalliance.ca is still the best place to sign up for updates).

Perhaps another question is whether the diligent efforts of a community are again being waylaid by a lack of transparency at Brock University. Perhaps this is a further challenge, with fires continuing to be lit under spectators whom must be actors, and this is the latest opportunity to be players, and not on the sidelines. Perhaps – as came up in several conversations – if the community values Rodman, this is the latest challenge, to be met.


After the Rodman Hall Alliance consultations in late 2017, I put down my notes and thoughts in a playful map, with the assistance of Chris Illich (Publisher, Managing Editor of The SOUNDSTC) and Brittany Brooks, an artist who works in music as well as visuals, known as Creature Speak. That can be seen here.

As well, an overview page that links out to all the chapters of What About Rodman Hall? can be seen here, and it also has other content, such as a conversation I had with Martin Van Zon when I was News Director at CFBU for Niagara Voices and Views.

 

Part 7. Experienced, and Expunged, Voices

It’s appropriate if this chapter on Rodman Hall and Brock University echoes the previous, by citing the voices of those present at the meeting at the Oddfellows Temple in downtown St. Catharines, facilitated by the Rodman Hall Community Group. Jean Bridge, Elizabeth Chitty, Elizabeth Hayden, Sharilyn J. Ingram and Sandy Middleton are an impressive “ad hoc” volunteer group. It would be a disservice to list their accomplishments here, but you can see it online at rodmanhallalliance.ca/about.

One woman, during the question period at the end of Janis Barlow’s presentation (augmented by Professor Sharilyn Ingram’s encyclopedic clarity on certain terms and history) encapsulated the evening best. After the dour (and periodically dishonest) negativity of the presentations of Martin Van Zon and Interkom that suggested that anything other than the “new” “Art Gallery of Niagara” would result in a horror almost Lovecraftian in its breadth — and vagueness, ahem — it is “good to see that there are many options for Rodman that are positive and viable, and that there’s major interest — and potential financial support — from a variety of community players and groups in Niagara”, and beyond.

The presentation by Barlow was succinct, and a variation of one given by this same group to the Capital Infrastructure Committee (CIC) at Brock. It was a little more than an hour, and yet contained more genuine information, as pertains to Rodman’s history, attendance, dependant classes from various educational institutions, provincial and national accolades and recognition – and financial options (perhaps most important in the current climate) than all four of the Van Zon evenings.

The evening promised — and delivered — the following:
“This event is an opportunity to learn about what has come to be known as The Barlow Report. At recent community consultations conducted on behalf of Brock University, it appears that this report — titled Rodman Hall: Planning the Future, a preliminary planning process — has been disregarded, despite it having been approved by Brock Board of Trustees in September 2015. The Barlow Report offers a clear alternative to the controversial notion put forth by Brock’s consultant that a new art gallery to replace Rodman Hall should now be considered.

The report proposed to cultivate partners for Rodman’s four core businesses (public art museum; learning centre; historic site; public gardens) to sustain future operations, develop an endowment, and safeguard Rodman’s assets and enable fundraising through establishment of a community property trust. This event is an opportunity to listen to consultant Janis Barlow review the report, ask questions and engage in a community discussion about its recommendations.”

Meanwhile, the ground has shifted.

Not long after Rodman Hall Community Group (RHA)’s forum last December, Brock University informed Martin Van Zon and Interkom they would no longer be requiring his / their services as a consultant. Perhaps “Brock” was displeased with the poverty of Interkom’s “research”; the abrasive, aggressive ignorance perpetuated in their “name”, so to speak; the revelations that there might be a conflict of interest and intent as regards the Art Gallery of Burlington; or that “nothing has been decided” has become a sarcastic rejoinder for many. All are believable cause for ending this embarrassing exercise in disrespect and delinquency. Perhaps it would be too ungracious to suggest a recouping of the consultation fee, as it’s arguable that work commissioned was not accomplished (and it could be put towards the cuts already made by Brock in Rodman’s budget…).

Further concerns that came to light from the RHA speaking to Brock’s CIC was that the CIC was unaware of the facts, and seemed to bend some (“Stuart [Reid, former Director] said he couldn’t implement the Barlow, and the board agreed”, which ignores that a three year plan cannot be implemented in three months… and there seemed to be a desire by some CIC members to “blame the media” for “rumour mongering” — are my ears burning? — but it was made clear to the CIC that this was another example of the disconnect — nefarious or simply ignorance — between themselves and what Van Zon spoke (for them?). Again, several RHA volunteers — notably Ingram — corrected these self serving misperception when they spoke to the CIC).

Its unclear at this time what this means for the Art Gallery of Niagara (agniagara.ca is still online, but without any listing of those involved, and as previously detailed here in The Sound, Interkom hosts and maintains the site… so it is unclear if the AGN is any more, or anything more, than a confused, problematic endeavour of one or two individuals… It’s worth noting that the RHA has expressed a willingness to work with any and all whom have Rodman’s best interests at heart, including the AGN).

But let’s put the expensive Interkom debacle behind us: if you go the RHA page you can watch several videos of the meeting, and hear what Chitty, Barlow and others whom are part of “the community of citizens, academics, artists and students that support the Rodman Hall Art Centre and its continued existence as a public asset” have to say. The videos are broken into sections, such as “Sharilyn Ingram, member of the Rodman Hall Alliance, provides context for the Barlow Report” or “Janis Barlow outlines and compares financial framework of Rodman Hall with other Ontario regional galleries.”

RHA also didn’t sugarcoat that Brock seems keen to divest itself of Rodman (I must be cynical and suggest that the outrage at what was proposed by Van Zon has served to galvanize a community that was a bit sleepy, and thus Brock’s acolytes of austerity have what they want, anyway). However, unlike the scolding rebukes made by one of the AGN cabal at the Niagara Artists Centre, RHA sees the six years to 2023 as an opportunity — and a challenge — to enact the partnerships and plans the Barlow report suggested (another video at their site is “Janis Barlow reviews opportunities and plans for community partnerships to sustain Rodman Hall”, which includes research and genuine guides for Rodman. This again highlights how Van Zon’s idea that a downtown gallery could be built for an almost criminally small amount, while ignoring issues of operating budgets for a new, were akin to — quoting a local entrepreneur — “rainbow shitting unicorns”).

RHA offers a challenge, to not solely keep but to improve Rodman Hall; and a plan that values heritage and the community players that are strongly invested in Rodman, and its variable history of grounds, local history, education and contemporary art. Email them to ask what’s next, and what needs to be done to make that happen, and make Rodman thrive.

Part 8: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, can be read here.

Part 6. Planning the Future / The Barlow Report

This series has been direct in its criticism of Interkom. This isn’t “unfairly harsh” so much as a direct record of the concerns expressed by many individuals, whether speaking for themselves, or representing larger groups, over the four evenings of this “consultation.”

Thus, it’s a good point to return to the report put forth by Janis Barlow & Associates.

If it seems inexplicable that Van Zon would so often fall back on “assumptions”, it may simply be because he is not qualified (or was not hired, arguably) to compile a report like Rodman Hall: Planning the Future A Preliminary Planning Process Report.

That report “is the result of the work of a task force of ten from Brock and Rodman Hall under the supervision of Stuart Reid and financed by the Ontario Arts Council’s Compass program…and it is my understanding it was approved by the Brock Board.”(Janis Barlow, in conversation).

Even more enlightening, Barlow elaborated on the history that brings us to this moment:

Martin Van Zon sat in on a couple of meetings and pushed me to include a sale of Rodman Hall and a downtown building option in my report.  He felt that Rodman Hall was old, poorly located, too run down and represented the past…I facilitated a discussion at the task force on the value of Rodman Hall versus a new downtown gallery.  The task force was unanimously in favour of preserving Rodman Hall as a heritage site, an art museum, a learning centre and the grounds as a park and sculpture garden and pursuing long term options for expansion with a possible downtown satellite in the future. They talked about better leveraging the existing asset and the inspiration that Rodman Hall provides artists.  Remember, the PAC hadn’t even opened yet and we felt it would need a few years before another new arts centre was proposed for St. Catharines.

I also pointed out that Brock had turned Rodman Hall into a Brock resource (there was supposed to be a Community Advisory Committee but it was dismissed after Rosemary Hale stepped down as Dean of Humanities) and it will take some years for the community to “own” Rodman Hall again.  Martin had convinced some of his PAC donors that a new art gallery could be built for $10 to $15 million…In my experience, which includes working on business plans and feasibility studies for 10 Canadian galleries and museums, a new regional art museum to replace Rodman Hall would cost $25 to $35 million.  However, it is the operating costs of a new art museum that would be beyond our city’s means at the present time.

Several of these factors have come to be true: the city of St. Catharines is quite clear that it is unwilling to further fund any initiatives at this time (Mark Elliott stated as much, the first evening, at NAC). That’s understandable, as funding for various groups has been increased this past year, and the incredible accomplishment of the Walker and the PAC merit a few years to rest and replenish both the financial well and the will to do more.

More history from Barlow: “Rodman Hall’s committee members [whom Barlow listed off by name when she spoke at one consultation, displaying a transparency that Brian Hutchings might emulate] were also concerned that Martin, as the PAC fundraiser, could not be objective and was in a conflict of interest in promoting a new gallery building. He does not appear to have arts management experience either [my emphasis, not Barlow’s]….I argued with him that Rodman Hall was an important heritage property in St. Catharines, an important art museum in Canada, a unique public garden and a source of pride and identity to many St. Catharines residents.  Suggesting the sale of Rodman Hall to help finance a new gallery…would spark division in this community [again, my emphasis, not Barlow’s].”

This suggests another point of great concern around the legitimacy of this process.

“No decision has been made” has been evoked, repeatedly, by Van Zon, by the moderators of all four evenings, and by Hutchings in The St. Catharines Standard.

Have we been lied to, here, then?

But the next part is just as disturbing, for any concerned not solely with Rodman Hall but also with what this process implies about governance and integrity at Brock University. More from Barlow:

After my report was approved by the Brock Board in August, I was contracted to implement my plan…[this] was suspended in the fall of 2015 because I was told that Peter Partridge and Martin wanted to investigate downtown gallery options…The next thing I heard in February, 2016 was that Brock University had posted a $50,000 RFP for a Rodman Hall transition plan.  They advertised for consultants through Arts Consultants Canada.  I contacted Rodman Hall management and asked if they wanted to cancel my contract and they said yes.  I felt reassured that they were advertising through Arts Consultants Canada, feeling that they would get a qualified and objective arts consultant to re-examine the situation.

I knew some of the consultants who applied. [Barlow is the  founding President of Arts Consultants Canada which is dedicated to excellence in arts consulting through peer juries].  When Brock informed them another consultant had been selected, [they] asked Brock senior management for a de-briefing (normal practice) and heard nothing back…  Some weeks later, we finally learned that Martin (not a member of Arts Consultant Canada) had been chosen and it seemed obvious to the other consultants who had applied that it was a fait accompli.

Perhaps the final point is the most depressing: “Although I praised Brock’s previous administration for assuming responsibility for Rodman Hall and the former President liked the “tone” of my report, I believe that Brock is breaking faith with this community, their faculty and their students.  It is a very sad situation.”

The Rodman Hall: Planning the Future A Preliminary Planning Process Report (or as it’s commonly referred to, by myself and others, The Barlow Report) provides a wealth of hard data, not solely assumptions from someone who seems not to realize that there are things he doesn’t know that he is unaware that he doesn’t know.

If Van Zon is looking for solutions, or seeking solutions from the community, the work has already been done, and one might ask why time and money is being wasted going over the same ground. Unless, of course, the agenda is not the one that is, in fact, being espoused.

In an excellent (and aforementioned) article, Doug Herod indicated that these “consultations” may have had an unintended consequence: public interest and energy to preserve and improve Rodman Hall may have began to gel in response to what appears to be a heavy handed cabal aiming to divest Brock of responsibility.

Along those lines, a motion was brought forth this week (November 21) to St. Catharines City Council – and passed unanimously – to “ask [the] heritage advisory committee to consider the potential designation of Rodman Hall under the Ontario Heritage Act.” This is a logical and respectful next step from some of the issues about Rodman’s building and grounds raised by Adrian Petry, the Public Historian at The St. Catharines Museum, at one of the evening consultations.

But other sources have suggested several distressing theories, such as how Brock would be unable to sell the building and grounds, but could “gift” them to the “art gallery of Niagara”, that then could do so. This comes from the same person who warned of a proposed new gallery back in the Winter, and it seemed unlikely then. Yet here we are now.

There was also a “colourful” article, to paraphrase current MIWSFPA Director David Vivian, in the Burlington Gazette, that suggests that further machinations are in play, or that more is happening behind the scenes. It’s been pointed out – quite correctly – that this “conversation” between Brock and the Art Gallery of Burlington might be irrelevant to the Rodman Hall situation.

However, the nature of the process so far, and the mistrust and cynicism that Interkom and Van Zon have inspired, can’t be ignored, either. Is it incomprehensible to consider that the AGB conversation might include whether they might “receive” the Rodman collection? And whom is having this conversation on Brock’s behalf, and what is being promised, or bargained?

Speaking of “informed sources”, as the Gazette puts it, two others have passed on that there is significant pushback, from faculty at Brock, regarding the “yet to be decided” art gallery of Niagara: last week some Rodman Staff and Faculty were (finally) given the opportunity to meet with Van Zon, and present “around specific questions and subject items.” Whether that will derail this illegitimate process, or whether some of them declined, feeling that the decision has been made and this is nothing more than a charade they’d rather not be sullied by, is debatable.

Other sources have communicated that Van Zon and the AGN faction have spoken of the soon-to-open Remai Modern, in Saskatoon, as a model to be emulated, for a first class, top tier gallery.

That’s interesting, as during the last decade of my tenure in that city, I wrote often about that process, and know that many of the facts of that situation – just like Sarnia or Ottawa, also cited by Van Zon – are not easily, or honestly, applicable, to creating a “new” regional gallery in Niagara. Not the least of these was the flush of oil money that suffused the Saskatchewan provincial government there, or that for several years prior to the decision to “create” a new gallery, funding options regarding renovations were explored thoroughly.

Van Zon’s report is now in the clutches of Brock’s Board of Trustees. At the time of this writing, at least one group is being organized to insist that Brock keep its word regarding the Rodman Hall: Planning the Future A Preliminary Planning Process Report, which it adopted as official policy, and has offered no explanation as to why it has not begun engaging and enabling the community and staff to enact it.

There is an online group, on FB, called Rodman Hall Community. I’ve been told several open forums for distribution and discussion of the Barlow Report have been planned, to ensure an important part of contemporary and historical Niagara is respected. This group is being facilitated by Elizabeth Hayden, whom also was the driving force behind a petition in support of Rodman Hall (signatories included internationally respected gallerist / collector Ydessa Hendeles, and many others whom illustrate the wide and deep respect for the space and its history) that was presented to the university concurrent to the Interkom “report.” Rodman Hall Community is acting as a locus for ensuring not just the survival of Rodman, but that it thrives. More directly, the stated mandate is to “share information about Rodman Hall and its future”, something that this consultation has not been particularly adept at doing…

This is the last in this monstrosity of a series we’ve titled “What About Rodman Hall?”, but this discussion is far from done. Some other facets of this controversy are in abeyance, as more information is gathered, and more sources come forward. But allow me to offer some teasers.

A lively debate with significant criticisms (levelled at Brock and the facilitators of this process) of blatant misogyny in the dismissal of expertise (whether the treatment of Acting Director / Chief Curator Bronson, or that Professor Sharilyn Ingram seems to have been boxed out of this process, despite her diverse knowledge and experience, or, continuing a pattern of stifled female voices, that Janis Barlow’s report seems to have been discarded as soon as submitted) has been happening online, on Facebook. (I’m reminded of how, the last evening of “consultations”, Professor Donna Szőke, with surgical and succinct humour, spoke from the front of the room, acknowledging some implicit power dynamics in walking up to speak from the same space as Van Zon…).

Simultaneously, concerns over Acting Brock President Brian Hutchings’ history with the City of St. Catharines, as it pertains to the debacle of the Burgoyne Bridge audits and mismanagement, have been insinuated (the correlations between how the Burgoyne was bigger, more complex and more difficult than the city assumed, and led to various problems that might have been foreseen, or avoided with proper…consultation…is why it’s mentioned here. But as of this writing, it’s nothing more than speculation, in the face of a process that is not particularly…transparent. Perhaps this is nothing but unhappy coincidence.)

There is – significantly – more information to be parsed, more voices to be heard from, and this current process, initiated last year, is more complicated and tangled than it appears. And perhaps is not what it seems, or purports to be.

On November 28th, at 7 PM, there’s a talk at Rodman Hall: Legacy of Splendor “is an illustrated talk on the history of the gardens of Rodman Hall, both the garden of Thomas Rodman Merritt who built Rodman Hall, and the Walker Botanical Garden opened to the public in 1988. The talk is given by Darren Schmahl, who in April of 1987, as a recent graduate of the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, was hired to supervise the initial planting phase of the project… This free talk is for community members interested in heritage, green space in St. Catharines, horticulture and the future of Rodman Hall Art Centre.” Many of the indignant voices raised to Interkom’s “assumptions” were / are people who know Rodman through this space and this aspect of its importance, to Niagara. They’ve been dismissed, it seems, as rudely as others.

In closing, some facts about Rodman, from the Barlow Report, to remind us what is at stake, and what we have in this region, right now.

Rodman Hall was the first and only art museum in Niagara to receive federal capital funding. It was designated a national exhibition centre for the Niagara region (in 1975) has maintained Class A status since 1975. Since 2010, the Gallery has received 7 OAAG (Ontario Art Association of Art Gallery) awards and two St. Catharines Standards Reader’s Choice awards. Growth in visitors has grown over four-fold in four years – from 6,000 to 25,000 per year. This “state-of-the-art school is a perfect complement to the distinguished historic art museum and collection. Together, they make Brock a Fine Art powerhouse in Canada.”

As I’ve cited it a number of times, in the last few instalments, here’s the Barlow Report, as it is colloquially named, and here is the original agreement between Brock University and Rodman Hall.

What About Rodman Hall? So Far, So What? can be read here.