What About Rodman Hall?
By Phil Lococo
The Niagara Artists Center has undertaken an exhibition about Rodman Hall beginning with an opening event Friday April 1st at 9 p.m. NAC hopes to bring attention to some pending changes to the way that the Gallery’s organization will be structured in the future.
Rodman Hall has been one of the most important venues for the visual arts in the Niagara Region for more than half a century, sometimes celebrated and sometimes marginalized.
Brock University, which in 2003 pledged to be the sole operator of the art gallery for twenty years, is now reconsidering the terms of its supporting role. Of Rodman Hall’s $900,000 annual budget, the university is kicking in about $613,000. Over the long term it’s been suggested that’s not something Brock can continue to subsidize.
The university has commissioned studies to examine how to proceed. That may include transitioning back to a community ownership model, possibly with a not-for-profit organization leading the way.
The history of the Niagara Artists Centre and Rodman Hall are intertwined; many don’t realize that during the early 70’s the collective spent four or five years operating out of the coach house at Rodman Hall before moving downtown. Members of the NAC are not happy with the potential for this important institution to be abandoned.
In developing the exhibition, NAC head Stephen Remus and the team have asked artists to provide submissions that examine the role of a public gallery such as Rodman Hall in the community, what the future of Rodman Hall could look like, and what community leaders should recognize about the value of an art gallery such as Rodman Hall.
“We’ve been hearing rumours about the future for some time, and we need to get more people talking about Rodman Hall, “ said Remus. “This is a cultural gem that people care deeply about and the community is worried about its future. They’re starting to make plans and we don’t know what they are. We just want them to talk to us as a community.”
A large and diverse collection of art work has been assembled for the exhibit.
Geoff Farnsworth, one of the participating artists had this to say when reached for comment, ”My painting ‘Proposal to Move Rodman Hall to Lundy’s Lane’ is an emotional reaction as ironic metaphor to the news that Rodman Hall may be in danger of losing its present function as an arts oriented community magnet.”
He goes on to say, ”Worrying that the short term bureaucratic economic policy may crush one of the outstanding beacons of this new cultural Niagara hub, I decided to work the Rodman Hall motif into an unfinished panel focusing on Lundy’s Lane. This low brow tourist vacuum with fast food and bargain basement strip motels seems a fitting metaphor as repercussion in the event of this scenario.”
Some of the art is obviously aimed at creating controversy; all of it will be thoughtfully created and provocative. The public is invited to join with the artists to explore Rodman Hall’s role in the community. The exhibit will be presented until July 2nd.
For more details visit https://www.brocku.ca/rodman-hall.