1. “I’m a pessimist about probabilities, I’m an optimist about possibilities.” (Lewis Mumford)
2. Let’s begin with an obvious point from one of the participants re: the latest Rodman Hall consultations. They archly commented that this is the fourth or fifth consults regarding RHAC they’ve attended. Their exasperation and angry frustration was not a rarity (another person found it hard to contribute without profanity. Harsh language is necessary language).
3. The Barlow Report has been in the hands of the #brockadmincabal for awhile: it’s been (perhaps) systematically ignored. Many suspect a delay and derail attitude wafting down from Brock re: RHAC. Another telling point is that MIWFSPA being so remote from the main campus is a means to marginalize dissenting voices (a literal physical remove from the halls of power where decisions are made). This wasn’t from a participant, as they politely (yet directly) indicated they’d no time for an exercise “intended to distract and exhaust a community, paving the way for Brock’s own mandates.” Paranoid? Let’s have a show of hands of those present when Martin Van Zon, with Brock’s implicit approval, refused to answer the same questions over four nights, and openly misled on others?
4. rodmanhallalliance.ca (RHA) has been engaging with community members and its goal is to present a model, to Brock, for Rodman as a non profit, community centred gallery; a model to follow after Brock absconds. Tom Arkell is RHAC’s Administrative Director, a Brock appointee. I’ve heard positive things about him from many, but I must cite the difficulty (the impossibility) of serving two masters (the same questions could be asked of some of the RH Alliance members, who were vocal advocates of the “Art Gallery of Niagara”: do Mann or Partridge have RHAC’s best interests at heart?)
5. 3 consultations last November were based around questions, and an online survey (Discover and Dream: public conversation survey about the future of Rodman Hall). These were focused on positive experiences with RHAC, and how to translate these past experiences into future ones. Examples: Thinking back on your experience at RHAC: what was a high point when you felt most engaged or inspired? How did it engage or inspire you? How do you currently use RHAC’s facilities? Which of RHAC’s programs or events are valuable to you? What should RHAC strive to be known for? How will it achieve this? In the future what kind of activities, programming or events are taking place? What new developments or facilities have been established? In the future: who is using the RHAC? What experiences are they having there? How do you hope to be involved at RHAC 5 or 10 years in the future? What RHAC could be, based on what it’s been, is being used to define what it should be #postBrock.
6. This is an early opinionated #artcriticfromhell impression (a sense of disillusionment, a sense of disaffection and perhaps most significant, a sense of distrust for Brock administration that ultimately is neither commutative nor accountable, nor particularly engaged, with a wider community. Brock is still treating RHAC as a tool, and not an asset…), but a final report will be assembled by the consultant, Gay Douglas & Associates. Unlike much of the discourse @ RHAC, this will be available to the public.
7. The university is implacable in annulling their relationship with RHAC in less than 5 years. How that affects the many dependant programs, courses and students (or faculty) has neither been accounted for, nor seems to be on Brock’s agenda.
8. Several faculty / stakeholders benefit greatly from RHAC, that have been conspicuously silent. Uneasy cynicism has crept into the air: IS this truly a community of words and not actions, or only of actions that pertain to personal gain in the cultural sphere, and not the wider one?
9. A recurrent concern was that there’s an abyss – an intentional alienation, perhaps, fostered / festered by Brock – between former active volunteers and current engaged cultural spaces. I’ve used the term annulment wryly, but at times, hearing artists, activists and volunteers speak of their relationship with RHAC, it seemed that Brock was (is?) the abusive partner who controls and starves their “intended”, separating them from friends, families and other support networks, to convince them that they’re unimportant and have few choices. That’s a blunt analogy: but #MaterialGirls just closed, and a lack of support / respect from an alleged “partner” erodes your self-respect.
10. These consults will be one of several factors in what RHA present to Brock, as part of their model for a RHAC that is separate and independent (free – just another word for nothing left to lose?) of the university. That’s scheduled to appear in the Spring: we’re a few years closer to 2023, and the question to ask is whether RHAC’s future is more secure, or less, and whether those whom benefit are doing all they can, and who is – and is not – a true supporter of RHAC. On that basis, RHAC can move forward.
11. More information & updates:
Rodman Hall supporters: www.rodmanhallalliance.ca
Unofficial facebook page: @RodmanHallCommunity
Unofficial facebook public group: Rodman Hall Community Group
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.