Historic Rodman Hall

Historic Rodman Hall

CHAPTER TWO (1975-1981)

Although the governors and members of the Arts Centre maintained active interest in all the arts, basic policy was revised in 1975 and the concept of a federation of groups interested in various aspects of the arts was abandoned.

The establishment of Brock University, and subsequent availability of theatre and auditorium space at the University, answered the requirements of the symphony and the theatre groups, at least in better measure than could be expected at Rodman Hall. The future for Rodman Hall Art Centre was seen to lie in concentration on the visual arts with increased attention to children's programs, and presentation of music and theatre on minor scale, but of high quality.

This new objective and subsequent reorganization required Supplementary Letters Patent which were granted by the Ontario Government in 1975. The name "St. Catharines and District Arts Council" was changed to "Rodman Hall Arts Centre." A new by-law was adopted recognizing the change in organization and objectives, providing for a reclassification of membership and enlargement of the Board from fifteen to twenty Governors. There are two classes of "organization members." Active organization members are those primarily interested in some form of cultural activity. Affiliate organization members are those interested in community service or educational work. In 1981 active member organizations were the St. Catharines Art Association and the Niagara District Art Association. Affiliate member organizations were C Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Community Concerts, Latvian Ladies Auxiliary, May Court Club, Niagara Symphony, Niagara Symphony Women's Committee, St. Catharines Public Library and University Women's Club. Active member organizations name a representative to the Art Centre Board as does City Council and Rodman Hall's Women's Committee, which is customarily represented by its President. Remaining Board positions are filled by election from the 900 people in the general membership. Who owns the Arts Centre? The members do. They are responsible through the Governors they elect for all Arts Centre affairs, and they operate a non-profit, charitable and educational corporation serving the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

The organization making most intensive use of the Art Centre is the St. Catharines Art Association, whose studio on the second floor sees constant use, principally for instruction and practice in visual art techniques. Each year the Association is given gallery space for a two-week exhibition of works by its members.

New facilities provided by the 1975 expansion qualified Rodman Hall as a "National Exhibition Centre" with the principal function of providing exhibitions of fine art which may be seen by the people of St. Catharines and Niagara Region in a central location close to their homes. The idea behind the establishment of National Exhibition Centres is that quality works of art should not remain locked up in the major galleries but that they be shown across the country in regional galleries as long as these are operated to approved standards respecting light intensity, temperature, humidity, public safety, and security. Since Rodman Hall achieved status as a National Exhibition Centre it has shown works from the most important galleries in Canada and has exchanged exhibitions with other Regional Centres. But exhibitions are not limited to Canadian art. Also shown are works by American, Latin American and European artists through the National Museums of Canada International Exhibition Programme.

From 1975 until the end of 1981, 125 exhibitions have been presented. Outstanding among them were: "One Hundred Years of Canadian Painting" with works from the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery and Hamilton Art Gallery; "Henry Moore: Drawings and Sculpture," from A.G.O.; "A Terrible Beauty" from Robert McLaughlin Gallery; "British Paintings," National Gallery; "5 Americans," a group of Buffalo artists. Attendance at these shows and at other events C lectures, musical recitals, theatre, movies, special events C now runs about 35,000 per year. The business is growing. Attendance has increased 50 per cent in the last ten years. Admission is free. Also growing in size and importance is the permanent collection. By the end of 1981 the collection numbered 375 works valued at $550,000. To the donors of art works mentioned in Chapter One there must now be added the names of Mr. Carl Schaefer, Mr. Louis Berai, Mr. and Mrs. B. P. Newman, Dr. and Mrs. Albert Taliano, Mr. and Mrs. All H. Hansen and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Charitable Foundation. Mr. Walter Carsen, who has made many important contributions in the past, has more recently given an important collection of graphics, including works by Picasso, Riopelle, Appel, Moore, Marini, Tamayo, Vasarely, Braque, Miro, Chagall and other 20th century masters. Gifts of paintings have also been received from the Women's Committee and from the President's Fund.

A 1978 Wintario grant permitted paving of the driveway and parking lot, with something left over for the purchase of the Etrog sculpture which stands to the right of the driveway near the front door, plus a major painting by John Lyman and another by John Alfsen.

The increased number of art works offered to Rodman Hall led to the establishment of the Acquisition Committee, chaired by the Art Centre President and comprising the Director and one or more members appointed by the Board. The Committee reports to the Board and recommends works for acquisition. The Committee is guided by a number of "Considerations" set forth by the Board. Chief among these is the following: "The Permanent Collection is chiefly concerned with Canadian art but need not be limited to Canadian art. The policy is to acquire a broad historical representation . . . principal considerations for acquisitions are: quality, historical relevance, condition, provenance and cost."

The Board had long been concerned over the mounting cost of insurance on the permanent collection. The annual insurance cost had grown to $3,200. The level of insurance cost was causing hesitation in accepting further gifts of art works. Exchange of information among Ontario galleries showed a wide range of insurance costs and prompted a cooperative effort by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries to get lower rates. This was achieved in ,1982 by many galleries pooling their art insurance requirements and placing them in a single group policy at a substantial saving.

A 1980 comment by Director Peter Harris, in reporting to the Board on Art Centre programs that there were "wall to wall kids" for presentations by Carousel Players and Lampoon Puppet Theatre on Sunday afternoons, emphasizes that the Art Centre is functioning as its name implies, and that it is more than merely a gallery for the visual arts.

Presentations for children are only part of week-end programs that from time to time feature musical afternoons with performances by local and visiting musicians which have won critical acclaim. Films depicting various aspects of the arts are well attended on Wednesday evenings, and frequent lectures on a variety of subjects related to the arts attract big audiences.

Close contact is maintained with other galleries throughout Ontario and with major galleries in Canada and the United States. A careful check is kept on programs offered elsewhere, particularly respecting variety and quality. Rodman Hall compares well with others and especially so considering its small level of staffing.

People say nice things about the Art Centre from time to time and this compliment must go on the record. Mr. Harvey McLeod, head of Extension Services for the New Brunswick Museum, visited Rodman Hall in 1977 and wrote to Director Peter Harris saying, "I have come away with a number of very useful ideas ranging from types of equipment to corporate membership. You have more and better facilities than most larger galleries in the country. Your place is an absolute jewel of a gallery. It's a credit to you and the city."

Another visitor in 1981 was M. Etienne Wermester, cultural attache to the French Consulate in Toronto. He said there was no city in France, comparable to St. Catharines in size, with a gallery, a cultural program and a collection in any way approaching Rodman Hall.

Late in 1980 the Government of Canada established the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee to "examine current federal cultural policies and programs . . . and recommend future directions." Director Peter Harris prepared a brief which was approved by the Arts Centre Governors and submitted to the Review Committee in early 1981. The principal thrust of the Arts Centre brief was that, basic to any cultural program must be insistence on excellence to the highest possible degree, together with maximum public participation. Regional programs are vital and support for them should be increased. By year-end the Committee was still preparing its report.

Miss Eve Hansen, who had served as Education Officer for the preceding two years, resigned in 1977, having firmly established the importance of our work in education services, particularly among children. She was succeeded by Miss Barbara Todd, who continued with educational work among both children and adults in addition to helping Director Harris with the multitude of gallery tasks. In 1981 Miss Todd left to expand her education at the Banff School of Fine Arts, and has been succeeded by Miss Debra Attenborough. All these young women hold degrees in Fine Arts from major Canadian universities and we have been fortunate that we have been served by such able and highly-trained personnel.

A right-hand man to Director Harris is Mr. Charles Verworn, Arts Centre Custodian, who is himself an artist. Pleasing examples of his work hang in the executive offices of The Ontario Paper Company. And keeping the administrative aspects of the Centre in coherence is Mrs. Susan Dickinson, the Centre's Secretary.

In early 1978 the local "Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee" proposed designation of Rodman Hall as an "Ontario Heritage Building." This proposal seemed to offer no advantages either to the community or the Arts Centre in that preservation of the original building had been an important consideration when it was purchased in 1959, and has remained so since. Designation appeared unimportant so long as Rodman Hall Arts Centre is owned and operated by its members who are well aware of the historical and architectural significance of the building.

But maintaining old buildings is expensive, although maintenance cost on Rodman Hall over the past twenty years has been surprisingly low, principally because it had been so well built originally that there had been little requirement for repairs. However, by 1981 work was required on the chimney pots, which tended to wobble in a high wind. Except for the main chimney in the old house, providing exhaust for the two gas-fired furnaces,-the other pots had long since become purely decorative because none of the twelve fireplaces had been used for twenty years or more. Conversion from heating with coal to natural gas in the early 70's caused a 1981 problem in that use of gas resulted in deterioration of chimney mortar with resulting possibility of explosion. It was no small job to expose the main chimney from furnace room to roof and install flue lining impervious to gas exhaust fumes.

Damage of time to chimney pot mortar had extended to some of the old building stonework, and late in 1981 a program of repointing had begun. Also demanded were repairs to the slate tiles on the roof of the old house and to the roof of the 1960 addition. The $30,000 cost of this maintenance was met by local industry and business in prompt and generous response to a blitz campaign for aid by Governor Terry Breithaupt, and by provincial government support through the Ministry of Culture and Recreation's Wintario Capital Grants Programme and the Cultural Assistance Grants Programme.

Late in 78 Governor Kenneth Gent proposed establishment of a Memorial Fund to receive gifts in memory of the dead. This concept evolved into that of an Endowment Fund which would receive gifts from estates or other donors wishing to have capital preserved with interest thereon used against Art Centre operating expenses. Memorial gifts would accrue to this Fund. The Fund, established in 1979, is administered by a committee of three: the President, the Treasurer and the Director, and reports annually to the Board on the disposition of earned interest, capital investment, return on capital and recommended investment policy. At the end of 1981 the Endowment Fund had $43,000 in capital invested and in that year had contributed $6,000 to operating revenue.

In 1979 the Art Centre lost one of its strongest supporters with the death of Mrs. Alice Bukowski, a past President of the Women's Committee, a Governor who served with distinction, and one whose contributions over many years were outstanding. Her name is commemorated on the Founder's Plaque and is the last to be inscribed as a Founder. The Founder's Plaque will always hang in its place of honour in the front hall but on the opposite wall a new plaque carries the names of Benefactors and those whose names are recorded in memory.

The two adjunct organizations within the Art Centre are the Women's Committee and the President's Fund. Both have been described and their work referred to in previous chapters, but up-dating is required.

In 1977 Mrs. Phillipa Gordon was succeeded as President, Women's Committee, by Mrs. Maureen Sauve, followed by Mrs. Dixie Macleod and the current President, Mrs. Mary Junke. The contribution of this Committee is essential to the operation of the Art Centre. Through their various fund-raising activities, these ladies make $12,000 plus each year, almost all of which is given to the Arts Centre. They pay the salaries of the part-time staff; i.e., the three ladies who serve the framing studio, (Mrs. Barbara Smith), the gallery shop, (Mrs. Sylvia Tobias), and the tea room (Mrs. Elda Burch). And they supply an untold number of work-days as attendants in the picture loan gallery, and the gallery shop, as docents, as hospitality conveners for special events C indeed they serve wherever help is needed. And notleast, each member is an ambassadress in the community in that her association with Rodman Hall adds to its prestige.

In 1981 the Committee was saddened by the death of its founder, Doris Godwin, who had served as President and as a member in many capacities for more than 20 years. Her name is commemorated by an Emily Carr painting given to the Art Centre by the Godwin family, and by a memorial maple tree planted by the Board of Governors to the left of the entrance driveway and marked by a granite boulder bearing a bronze tribute plaque.

The President's Fund continues to fill an important place in Art Centre activities. Membership still numbers about 40 men. It meets once each year for dinner at Rodman Hall. It has no organization, no constitution and no by-laws. The members belong because they think the Art Centre does a useful job in the region.. They pay $150 for their dinner, and listen to reports by the President and the Director. When the President has paid for the dinner, he has several thousand dollars to spend on art acquisition or improvements to Rodman Hall. He can spend it any way he likes so long as it is not used to meet operating expenses. If the Art Centre is short of cash, the members of the President's Fund have been known to help with a special assessment on members. And it was this group that supplied most of the money required to publish this booklet.

Over 20 years the Fund's income was $71,000. In that time, $20,000 was spent by the President on art purchases which were added to the permanent collection. Building improvements absorbed $32,000. Library acquisitions amounted to $2,100. Miscellaneous expenditures were $8,800. At the end of 1981 the Fund had $8,100 drawing maximum interest and awaiting best possible use. As do the women in their committee, these men support the Art Centre, and by their affiliation, enhance its reputation.

The National Museums of Canada, through assessments by the relevant National Museum, provincial agency, Associate Museums, and a panel of National Exhibition Centre directors, rated Rodman Hall in 1980, and again in 1981, outstanding in Canada for program quality and diversity.

A further honour was accorded Director Harris in 1981 with his appointment as a member of the Ontario Arts Council.

Chapter One ended with Mr. Richard Court as Art Centre President. Mr. Court was succeeded by Dr. Donald Steele, and he in turn by Mr. Bernard Cooperman, who was President briefly until forced to retire with a health problem requiring treatment and rest. Mr. AH Hansen followed Mr. Cooperman, and with the conclusion of this chapter, will be through a third term. Over the past many years the Arts Centre has been fortunate in attracting exceptionally able people to its service. The President's job is a demanding one. It has always been done well.

An outstanding accomplishment during the 21-year-review period is a continuous record of balanced budgets. The operating statement for the year ending June 30, 1981 shows receipts of $164,000 and expenditures of $163,000. The budget grew twelve times what it was in 1960. Half of that was inflation, but the other half was growth C all of it in program. And how the assets grew! By mid 1981, assets had grown to $750,000. At that time moreover the 1981 balance sheet showed the art collection at acquisition cost of $278,000 whereas market value is estimated at twice that amount. Auditors use acquisition value for all asset valuation. At replacement cost the Art Centre assets amount to about $1.5 million. Not bad for a venture that started out a bit more than 21 years ago with a little over $700 in cash C and nothing in anything else except nerve and belief that public support would develop.

Without grants from various levels of government there would be no Arts Centre. The Provincial Ministry of Citizenship and Culture provides 16 per cent, of money needs. Ontario Arts Council with 14 per cent, brings total provincial support to 30 per cent. The City gives only slightly less than the province, and the federal government thro'^gh National Museums of Canada grants 12 per cent. Government grants, therefore! provide 75 per cent, of money requirements. Added to that $116,600 should be the $1,200 given by Lincoln County Board of Education and $1,000 from Niagara South Board of Education. It's all taxpayers' money. Private money from Ridley College, Rotary Club, May Court Club, industry and business, membership, Women's Committee, Endowment Fund, special projects and whatever else the members can think of, amounts to $45,000 plus such things as $68,000 from private sources to buy the old house and build the 1960 wing, plus $147,000 for the 1975 addition, plus $30,000 for building improvements in 1981. This has truly been a joint venture; one in which all the adventurers C city, provincial and federal governments, private supporters, Arts Centre members, and staff C have done great things in the first twenty-one years. They can look forward with confidence to future challenges. There will be many more chapters in the history of Rodman Hall.

Gordon Godwin, 1982

 

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