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News / April 9, 2013

13 Staff Cut at the Rooms in Newfoundland Budget Aftermath

Visitors at the Rooms look out over St. John's Harbour / photo Kenny Louie (kennymatic) via Flickr Visitors at the Rooms look out over St. John's Harbour / photo Kenny Louie (kennymatic) via Flickr

Newfoundlanders are expressing concern this week over government cuts to the arts released with the provincial budget on March 26.

These changes included a $1 million funding cut for the Rooms—Newfoundland’s provincial art gallery, museum and archive.

This cut led the Rooms to quickly eliminate 13 staff positions, St. John’s newspaper the Telegram reports. (A Rooms spokesperson says that some 60 staff positions are still secure at the institution.)

Positions eliminated include curator of Canadian art, currently staffed by Mireille Eagan; Eagan has been working on a Mary Pratt survey that will open in May and tour the nation in coming years. Three other curators are also said to have been let go due their positions being cut.

The paper also reports that in the wake of the cuts, the Rooms is also considering a reduction in operating hours.

A spokesperson for the Rooms confirmed that “there could be a small reduction in the operating hours” as well. Currently, the spokesperson stated, the Rooms is open 331 days of the year. They also stated that “we are working hard at minimizing the impact on our visitors.”

CBC reports that a visual arts program at the College of the North Atlantic, in place since 1980, was also cut in the new provincial budget.

Tonight at 7 p.m., representatives from various sectors of the Newfoundland art scene are meeting at St. John’s artist-run centre Eastern Edge Gallery for ART = WORK, a public forum on the cuts and their impact.

“Many are concerned about the current government undervaluing the arts and using this heavy-handed approach,” says Mary MacDonald, director of Eastern Edge, which is co-presenting the forum with the Newfoundland and Labrador division of CARFAC.

Statements will be heard tonight from artists Marlene Creates and Philippa Jones (currently showing at the Rooms), dealer Christina Parker of Christina Parker Gallery, business owner Dave Hopley, and representatives from CARFAC.

The results will be sent to Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of tourism, culture and recreation, Terry French.

Not all sectors of the arts received a cut in March’s budget. The Film and Video Tax Credit was increased from $3 million to $4 million—a move intended to support productions such as the TV show Republic of Doyle, the Telegram reported.

Funding for the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council basically held steady compared to the Rooms and College of the North Atlantic, suffering an operating grant cut of 1.5 per cent or $33,000, the newspaper stated.

MacDonald says it’s important, however, that the Newfoundland arts community not resort to infighting about who did or didn’t get money.

“I think that’s been a narrative, where the two [TV and other arts endeavours] are seen in opposition to each other. But there’s actually a lot of artists who work on Republic of Doyle. We’re all trying to do good work,” she said

“As the same time, I would love to see the Rooms being supported, and artists being supported… There are a lot of amazing artists here in the community, like Kym Greeley, or Craig Francis Power. We’re doing great work and producing great artists, but we really need to keep the people who are behind those artists going as well—the writers, the curators, the secretaries and the installers.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. She has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.