The Art Gallery of Algoma: Framed by a Skeleton Budget

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20160309_162809(0)On Tuesday, March 8th, 2016, The Art Gallery of Algoma (AGA), was asked to appear before City of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Municipal Council to share details of their budget vis-a-vis municipal funding to the AGA’s annual budget. The City of Sault Ste. Marie is currently in the process of Municipal Budget Deliberations.

Jasmina Jovanovic, Director of the AGA, and Mark Lefore, President of the Board of Directors shared an impassioned plea to Municipal Council not to cut any of their annual funding.

“There is no room for a budget cut. We cut our budget last year already. We really are cut to the bare bones here,” said Jasmina Jovanovic.

20160309_160826In a presentation to Municipal Council on March 8th,2016, Jasmina Jovanovic stated: “our budget for 2015 decreased about 15 per cent. Funding from the City of Sault Ste. Marie covers 33 per cent of our budget. Overall public funding and self-generated revenue are split at about 50-50. Any further cuts to our programming would have a higher impact on our services to the community. Our total attendance in 2015, was 30,683, including exhibitions, events and education programming. We host several events that cater to education and/or fundraising. Our gallery shop does generate a little revenue, but does not represent a significant percentage of our revenue stream.”

Mark A. Lepore stated: “as President of the (AGA) Board, I can advise (Municipal Council) that the Gallery faces a constant struggle in trying to maintain its current service level to the community. As a public institution that maintains significant aspects of our cultural and public trust it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the budget as it currently is. We have made significant advances in cutting the budget and finding cost efficiencies, but we simply cannot face anymore cuts. I don’t want to be the ominous voice in the room, but if we cut this institution’s funding, I submit that we will have a problem (continuing current level of programming and service).”

AGAFundingChart“A funding increase from the city has not been realized for at least five years,” said Jasmina Jovanovic when the question was posed by Mayor Christian Provenzano.

“We appreciate your attendance (at municipal council budget deliberations March 8th, 2016) and I certainly appreciate everything you do for our city.” said Mayor Provenzano.
SaultOnline stopped by the AGA recently to visit with Jasmina Jovanovic, the AGAs dynamic Director.

20160309_161034(0)Currently featured at the AGA is an exhibition by local artist Alicia Hunt. ‘Home’ is an interactive exhibition that encourages people to draw or illustrate what home means to them and pin them to an ever-growing collection of fabric pieces. ‘Home’ drapes fabric and colours in such a way as to elicit an understanding of belonging and displacement. With a theme that is timely, a person might find a common understanding in how displaced persons and refugees would look for some sense of belonging. Refugees, who are running for their lives, and whose lives are ‘hanging in tatters’.

“Providing a way to emotionally connect through artistic expression is vital to what the AGA provides to our community,” said Jasmina Jovanovic.

It was the famous artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) who said “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

The James Street Community Soup Kitchen & Community Centre is featured in a Brian Tremblay exhibition titled ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’. The photography exhibition invites persons to gaze upon and study the faces of people affected by issues entrenched in poverty. Brian Tremblay is a local photographer and teacher.

20160309_160517“The exhibits all invite our own interpretation and reflection of what we see,” shared Jasmina Jovanovic. “There are two exhibits currently on display that are heavy on an emotional level, and the larger exhibition space invites a person to quiet the mind, contemplate. Artwork has the power to draw us in to memories we have; to touch us in ways that may be subtle.” An Ontario artist, from Peterborough is featured in the larger room of the AGA.

20160309_160012“Municipal, provincial and federal funding provides a portion of our annual budget, however we still have to raise over half of our budget. Fundraising is more and more imperative and we are already understaffed. What we receive from the city doesn’t fully cover our salaries. Our monthly costs amount to approx. $30,000. We can only cut so much,” she said.

There are 4 full-time and one part-time staff at the AGA. In 2015, the AGA was open for 3,200 hours. The AGA is home to a collection with over 5,000 pieces.

“The AGA is in the process of fully digitalizing the entire collection. It’s a project I started when I first got here 5 years ago,” said Jasmina.

20160309_162415Annie King, an art instructor with ‘Art after School’, was busy with youngsters arriving to the AGA for their class. Weekday and Saturday classes run throughout the year, as part of their vision for art education programming.

A dramatic and impressive legacy painting which represents the Sault’s waterfront, and was commissioned in 2012 for the 100th anniversary of the City, greets visitors arriving to the AGA. “Funding for this painting was supported by The Federal Department of Canadian Heritage, Building Communities through Arts and Heritage.”

20160309_16304420160309_162513Most of the Gallery Shop contains unique items created from local artisans, with the exception of ‘Group of Seven’ items, which the Gallery carries to support visitors who come to the Sault as tourists.

“People come here looking for connections to the Group of Seven and art history. We are an important link in Group of Seven package tours that are booked through local tourism businesses. Last summer we had 8 groups come through the gallery, largely made up of American tourists. I speak to them about the legacy of the Group of Seven in the Algoma region.”

The AGA is further used for public functions and groups who use the building as a meeting space, include STRIVE (Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce Young Professional’s Group).
City of Sault Ste. Marie Commissioner of Finance & Treasurer Shelley Schell stated (during Budget deliberations on March 8th, 2016)

“There are several organizations that have been ‘grandfathered’ over the years who receive ongoing funding (from the City) and do not submit their full budgets to the City. The Art Gallery is one of them. They further include: The Sault Ste. Marie Museum, Safe Communities (Sault Ste. Marie Safe Communities Partnership), Algoma University’s annual amount, the Memorial exemption to The Legion (Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25), The Pee Wee Arena annual grant, and The Bush Plane (Heritage Centre) Museum.”

Mayor Provenzano has encouraged these organizations to share details of their budget information in the future.

City of Sault Ste. Marie Municipal Budget Deliberations continue on March 22nd, 2016.
to learn more about the AGA visit: artgalleryofalgoma.com

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