The Minden Hills Cultural Centre Foundation (MHCCF) proposes transferring governance of the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, Minden Hills Museum and Heritage Village, and Nature’s Place to its board of directors.
The request, raised at an April 28 council meeting, comes two months after news former curator Laurie Carmount was no longer employed at the gallery. That sparked concern about the gallery’s future.
Neil Briggs, MHCCF president, told councillors transferring responsibility of the Bobcaygeon Road facility would “reduce township administration and staff costs and increase economic benefits to the town from more events.” The proposal would see a chief curator oversee day-to-day operations, reporting back to the board.
Briggs compared the model to the Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre and the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. He said board governance would result in expanded programming, enhanced marketing and more social events.
The centre would be funded by grants from Minden Hills, the province and the federal government. Currently, it’s governed by the township’s community services department.
The Minden Hills Cultural Centre Advisory Committee offers feedback and suggests ideas, but isn’t able to make hiring decisions, direct staff activity or implement programming changes.
“We do not believe continuing the status quo is viable and the Cultural Centre will continue to drift and will be an additional burden on the council,” said Briggs.
The Minden Hills Cultural Centre Advisory Committee has not met since November 2021 and didn’t hold meetings between March 2020 and Sept. 2021.
The MHCCF reports it had “no input” on the township’s 2022 budget. Mayor Brent Devolin said he supported investigating the plan further. “I think this is the potential of a good start,” he said. Devolin said he was encouraged by the opportunities presented by Briggs and Jack Brezina, the latter who recounted a history of the gallery and Nature’s Place.
Brezina said recent “turmoil” at the MHCC prompted reinvigorated support of the MHCC. “In every challenge there are opportunities, and seizing on this moment the foundation rallied the supporters of the MHCC to explore ways to make the centre resilient and more viable.”
Council voted to accept the presentation as information and requested a staff report be presented at an upcoming meeting.
“I look forward to the dialogues and where this may go,” Devolin said.
After the presentation, supporters applauded from their seats behind Brezina and Briggs at Highland Hills United Church.
Briggs said he was encouraged by the council’s response. “We’re looking forward to working with council going forward.” Director of community services Craig Belfry said he will bring a report back to council by the end of May.
He said that will involve speaking with MHCCF board members about the plan.
“There’s a lot of information gathering that needs to happen over the next month,” he said. He’s received emails and phone calls from people voicing concerns over the centre’s future.
“The municipality supports the cultural centre as it always has,” Belfry said. The Minden Hills Cultural Centre Advisory Committee is set to meet May 10 for the first time since November 2021.