Council agrees not to proceed with arts and culture referendum

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 23rd, 2010

Arts and culture funding for the Grand Forks area will not be going to referendum next year if the groups involved can work out a plan. At a special meeting of Grand Forks City Council on Monday night, the Grand Forks Art Gallery Society and the Boundary Museum Society were both clear that they do not want their funding to be put out for a vote.  “The recommendation that the art gallery society had on behalf of Gallery 2 was that we didn’t support the idea of a referendum,” said Robert Morton, president of the gallery. “I think that was also the same attitude that the Boundary Museum Society had as well. Both organizations felt it wasn’t really productive to go forward with the referendum.”  The meeting was held at the request of council, but the representatives who attended the meeting said it was an open, informal discussion. Morton felt there were many issues to be dealt with such as regional funding, not just the referendum, and so it was good not to proceed.  The stress between the agencies and council dates back two years when council at the time withdrew funding from the museum, and negotiated the first agreement with the art gallery for their new space. This year, the museum requested that their funding be reinstated. The gallery, on the other hand, was recently faced with cutbacks from council on what they thought was a secure agreement.  “We’re happy with the decision,” said Morton. “We will be having discussions in the New Year with the museum society regarding collaboration on projects in the future.”  The emphasis is now on the two organizations to look at their plans and see potential opportunities to share funding and projects. Lawrence Radford, president of the Boundary Museum, hopes that the gallery will consider allowing the community’s archives to be housed in the vault at the heritage gallery, and the societies can then share funding.  “If we can agree on a system to have the archives at the courthouse, than we can share monies with the art gallery for us to have that room,” said Radford. “The city wants up to come up with a full budget for next year and we’re working on that right now.”  Councillor Chris Moslin confirmed council’s decision, “At this point council is not going to proceed with a referendum. We put the ball back in their court to see if those two groups can come  forward with hard facts about what they need in order to function and ways that they can cooperate. We have to be able to put these cultural institutions in our community on stable footing. We need to put some longevity in place.”

Almost the entire board of directors for the museum were present at the meeting as well as several directors from the art gallery. Council will be expecting the organizations to come back to them with budgets for the upcoming year, and some information on their collaborations to a future meeting.