Should rethink gallery closure

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

Attention, Mayor of the City of North Battleford and Council Members:

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It has come as a great disappointment that City Council has voted to close the Chapel Gallery for the remainder of the 2020 year. Yet, as its main Public Art Gallery it is still available for function rentals? How can a wedding or group function be safer than the operation of the Chapel Art Gallery? COVID-19 has caused all public and private art institutions to rethink how they can get back to normal. This didn’t mean closing the facilities, but actually rethinking how they can remain open. As a side note, the basement of Allan Sapp Gallery is not conducive as an art gallery space, it’s more of an education, workshop space and children’s programming area.

I am a practicing visual artist living in Saskatoon and have had numerous solo and group exhibitions at the Chapel Gallery over the years. I am also a long time member of the Chapel Gallery. If it wasn’t for the support of the Chapel Gallery I don’t think my career would be at the stage it is at now. I have always appreciated the support the City of North Battleford has given art-related programming and thought it was one of the city’s greatest attributes. This same support has been a springboard for many hundreds of emerging and now professional Saskatchewan artists. Organized travelling exhibitions such as: Dimensions, OSAC and more recently, Walking With Missing Indigenous Women, have brought thought provoking programming to your community, placing North Battleford on a national stage. Without this space you would not get these shows.

The costs of an art show are typically that of the artist. The gallery usually applies for funding to afford their annual programming and pay a fee to the artist for showing. Having a professional public gallery space to display in is an amazing feeling of acceptance and accomplishment, where an artist can put their best foot forward. Program diversity allows for a wide variety of idea-sharing with the community, as well as the many travellers that go through the Battlefords each year.

Art is healing, a catalyst and speaks all languages. It rarely shows up in the dollars and cents column, as it is usually once or twice removed from and actual money generation. In these times of COVID-19 and distancing, we should be looking for ways to lessen the stress of the pandemic on our communities. My big concern is once a facility is closed for such a long time, City Council may forget all the good it did for the community. When people travel to other countries they go to experience the art and culture of the region. It is a cities responsibility to its citizens and business district to proudly present the diversity of your area to all visitors. Trust in yourselves to not only make financial decisions on behalf of your constituents, but also the intangible, wellness ones.

Paul Constable, artist

Saskatoon

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