Attempts to increase funding to art gallery fall flat

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 9th, 2010

City council in Grand Forks is divided over funding for the art gallery. Despite an impassioned request for a renewed commitment of funding, the art gallery came away empty handed from the council meeting on Monday night. Although Councillor Gene Robert put forward a motion to provide an additional $30,000 in funding to the society, the split on council was enough to defeat the question.   A large group of supporters came out to witness a presentation made by Robert Morton, president of the Grand Forks Art Gallery. Morton talked on the importance of the new gallery facility to the community as a major tourist attraction and as a home to many community groups’ activities, and their decision as a board to offer admission by donation as a policy.   “It’s something that we’re all proud of and it’s something that sets us apart from most other little towns in B.C. It’s the one thing that most people remember when they’ve driven through Grand Forks,” said Morton at the meeting. “What I would hope for would be a new motion. We would request that council pass a motion providing $120,000 plus building services costs. This is what was requested on Sept. 28. It is the same amount that the city provided for the last two years.”   Councillor Christine Thompson was adamantly against the motion.   “The service that Gallery 2 provides to the community is a wonderful service. I really and truly wish there were monies available to fund them the additional amount of money,” said Thompson. “But there is no money tree out the back door. I cannot, as a member of this council, justify to the taxpayers of this municipality funding the art gallery $150,000. I don’t see anything in their presentation from area D, and I see a $5,000 contribution from area C. It is with regret that I cannot support funding the gallery that amount of money.”   Fears of increased costs to user groups, a possible loss of cultural services within the area, and the risk of losing credibility with volunteer groups were foremost with both Councillor Chris Moslin and Mayor Brian Taylor. Taylor spoke out in support of the funding referring to the agreement that was developed to cover the additional costs.   “I think that in this point in time I see an issue of a social contract of goodwill with the gallery, I see that we have the trust of volunteers in our community to consider, and I for one feel that (the motion) does level the playing field for the next year,” said Taylor. “I think that this may not be the long-term solution, but at this point in time I feel that I have a personal contract with this group and that I do want to stand behind that social contract in our community with volunteer organizations.”   The motion was defeated with Taylor, Robert and Moslin voting for the motion.   Morton added in a later interview that the society will now need to scramble to find a way to maintain their current budgets. 

“We’re disappointed, I guess that’s fairly obvious,” said Morton. “We thought we had a clear contract with the city, they have another view. Its short notice and we are committed to developing a permanent exhibition in the gallery. We’re going to have to look very hard to find the money to complete that.”