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Leaky roof just one of many headaches for cash-strapped National Gallery

17 minutes ago


DEAN BEEBY

OTTAWA (CP) - Behind the soaring glass facade of the National Gallery of Canada lies an institution so short of cash it is resigned to living with leaks every time it rains.



A newly disclosed document describes a "crisis" at one of Ottawa's main tourist attractions, a facility running out of storage space, staff and money.

The art gallery "is facing a crisis within the next 18 months as fixed costs increase faster than increases in government funding and revenue generation," says an internal report, obtained under the Access to Information Act.

"The gallery has started to limit programming and exhibitions to address budget pressures . . . (but) does not have a co-ordinated revenue generation approach and strategy."

The May 2004 report by management consultants Deloitte and Touche was based on consultations with the gallery's nine-member senior management committee.

The document largely focuses on the gallery's deteriorating facilities, which require more than $4 million each year in repairs and renovations but are getting only $1.2 million this year.

"Without increased funding . . . the gallery will run out of space for storing art and non-art, and the (main) building will suffer damage due to lack of maintenance," says the report.

A long-standing problem with a leaky roof at its dramatic Sussex Drive location remains unresolved. Patches have been made to prevent leaks from damaging art in display and storage areas, but the dramatic entrance pavilion and ramp walkway still drip in a downpour.

"We've had to postpone roof repairs," says Fran Cameron, deputy-director of administration and finance. A recent engineering study called for a program to fix the facade's leaky windows as well, but that has also been deferred to future years.

Last year, the gallery had to permanently give up $400,000 in its annual base funding as a contribution to a government-wide savings program.

Revenue from admission fees remains flat, though an additional $1 million is expected this year from increased corporate donations and fundraising. In the meantime, staff salary and benefit costs keep rising.

Earlier this month, the gallery announced it was cutting 15 full-time positions from its 247 staff, or about six per cent.

It is gradually winding down its five-year commitment to a controversial gallery in Shawinigan, Que., established in the riding of former prime minister Jean Chretien for what many saw as purely political reasons.

Last year's $1 million in support to La Cite de l'energie - owned and operated by a local non-profit group - is dropping to $750,000 this year, the third year of the deal, and will be even lower next year, says Cameron.

There will be fewer art exhibitions and installations in Ottawa this year as well, though no cuts so far in travelling exhibitions that make stops at 35 communities across Canada.

"Where we're really reducing activities is in Ottawa," Cameron said.

The gallery, with more than 38,000 art objects in its care, has also disposed of many non-art items, such as display cases and crates, to help free room in its overcrowded storage facilities.



The Deloitte and Touche study noted that about 60 per cent of the institution's storage space was taken up by non-art items because the gallery lacks clear storage policies, a problem that may be bleeding precious dollars.

Canadian Heritage, the gallery's parent department, has projected flat funding of $44.5 million annually through to 2008, which means there's no relief on the horizon, forcing a greater reliance on donations to keep up with rising costs and deferred maintenance.

Heritage Minister Liza Frulla promised a review of museums policy last December, but there are 2,500 museums and galleries across Canada clamouring for money. John McAvity, executive director of the Canadian Museums Association, has called the crumbling infrastructure in many of these buildings "a national disgrace."

At the same time, Ottawa is pouring up to $100 million into Winnipeg's planned Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

A long-range strategy for the National Gallery to 2010 was approved by cabinet last month, but won't become public until June at the earliest when it is to be tabled in Parliament - if there is no election called first.

In the meantime, the towering glass-fronted structure designed by architect Moshe Safdie, built in the late 1980s, will continue to admit bad weather along with art patrons.

"Even though it looks wonderful, it's reached an age where there are major components that need to be replaced," said Cameron.
 

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But Ontario is the richest province... how could we need money for anything? We're rich!

As usual, unless it's falling apart the feds ignore it.
 

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The Mighty.
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How can these things happen in a country like Canada?
Are we a third world country in disguise?
I'm starting to think that way more and more as each month passes. It's actually rather disturbing...
 

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SSLL
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I don't think the Feds give enough to support the arts. Or at least spending it in the right areas...Does anyone know about the Shawinigan art gallery the article's talking about? What the hell is in Shawinigan because of Chrétien? I know the tax processing center is there (and where the hell in Québec IS Shawinigan?). Was it before Chrétien? About the capacity issue, why not transform the neighboring War Museum to the National Gallery North when the new War Museum is finished?
 
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