In a unanimous vote last night, Windsor City Council rescued the financially beleaguered Art Gallery of Windsor, agreeing to purchase the institution’s 401 Riverside Drive West location and take over its outstanding debts.
Ownership of the building will be transferred on January 4, 2013, at which point the AGW becomes tenant of the second and third floors of the 12-year-old property, the original building costs of which were $22 million. (The Windsor Star reports that the first-floor tenant will likely be a branch of the library.)
According to a press release issued today, the AGW is on a 49-year “gratis” lease. It will no longer be responsible for utility costs, capital expenses and overall maintenance. It will also no longer receive an annual $450,000 operations grant from the city, which will now be used by the city to offset maintenance.
“We will remain an autonomous, separately-governed charitable organization with our own board of directors, core staff and art collection,” the AGW release says. The AGW Foundation will also remain as a separate organization.
AGW director Catherine Mastin was quoted yesterday in the Windsor Star as saying this new arrangement is an “incredibly compelling reason” for supporters to donate to the gallery and its foundation, since money will be directly used for exhibition and education initiatives, rather than for maintenance and fees.
The AGW’s financial woes became increasingly public in November with the news that their staff would be drastically reduced from 17 employees to 5 employees. In today’s release, Mastin indicates that “in the weeks leading up to the start of 2013, we will be … initiating the process of recalling selected staff into a new organizational structure.”
Opinions of the council decision are both positive and negative in the city.
A December 2 op-ed in the Windsor Star noted there has been a moratorium on AGW acquisitions for three years, and that the restaurant and gift shop have been closed. The editorial also claimed that the AGW building, initially funded in large part by the Caesars Windsor casino, has been a struggle to maintain from opening, with its debt exceeding its operating budget.