AGN MOU, Lease and Budget

The relationship between the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN) and the Town of Cobourg has not always been happy nor well defined since the AGN was established in 1960.  The AGN occupies all of the third floor of the West Wing of Victoria Hall plus some storage locations on the second floor and the basement for a total floor area of 3,299 square feet.  Up until recently, they have been charged $45,000 per year for rent but then granted that money in each year’s budget.  Each year they also submit a request for about $170K more towards their budget of about $300K.  The process of coming to an agreement has not been well defined so at the next Committee of the Whole Council meeting on November 15, a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Lease Agreement are being presented for approval.

Olinda Casimiro
Olinda Casimiro

The two documents (lease and MOU) will have the same term – January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2026 – and will make it clear what the lease cost is and what the budget process is – but not the amount to be approved.

Basically free although there will be a nominal $1 fee.  However, in addition, utility costs will be billed by the Town to the AGN as a proportion of the actual costs.  The proportion will be based on the ratio of square footage (3,299/36,000) – this works out to $16,500 in the first year.  It seems that these were not previously charged. Also, the AGN Board have regular meetings at Victoria Hall – their cost will now be invoiced by the Town to the AGN (para 6. 1 of MOU) on a cost recovery basis.

Annual Grant Process
The AGN will set a budget of Expenses and a budget of Revenue from sources other than the Town.  The difference would constitute their budget/grant request to the Town. The amount approved for 2021 was $150K.  It’s not specified what happens if the Town does not grant their request – presumably the AGN must then re-work their budget.  The good news for the AGN is that the rent is taken out of the equation for 5 years.

Budget request for 2022
Olinda Casimiro, Executive Director of the AGN, has already submitted her request for 2022 – see link below (and file photo from 2019). Their budget is set at $302,000 and their request for the grant from the Town is $175,000 – up from $150,000 in 2021.  They note that the increase is $25K and “… reflects: $16,500 Utilities; $8,500 increase to budget”.  They expect $40K in Provincial grants and $25K in Federal grants with $20K in donations.  It’s not obvious where they allocate the cost of renting board meeting rooms.

It’s a little weird that the MOU and Lease Agreement will formally come to Council after their budget request which assumes that these will be in place.  Hopefully it will get sorted out.

By the Way – although the AGN is a major cultural attraction in Cobourg, it’s not in any of the Town’s Departments – it’s handled as a separate entity – like the Library and the Concert Band.  So Olinda does not answer to any Director or Town Staff member – she reports to the AGN Board.


Addendum – Nov 16

At the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on November 15, Councillor Beatty moved that secretarial support by the Town be NOT included in the MOU.  Her motion passed 4-3.  Otherwise the MOU and lease were approved subject to ratification at the Regular Council meeting on November 22.

Addendum – November 24

The MOU as amended per above were ratified at the regular Council meeting on November 22.  So the MOU and Lease per above are now in effect.

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8 November 2021 4:23 pm

Art has been part of the human race since the cave drawings. Art is important for people’s knowledge of where they came from. The Art Gallery provides education for children to teach them the value of art and how it affects their lives. It allows them to find their creative spirit. It provides an opportunity for adults to look outside their own selves. It is thought provoking and beautiful.

Northumberland is a very rich in culture and arts. Something we should be proud of and celebrate.

8 November 2021 10:56 am

I see the value of an Art Gallery in principle but not in the relation to the perceived benefit and associated costs.

8 November 2021 8:48 am

Great work if you can get it

  • accountable to No one
  • no obligations or expectations of turning a profit
  • No idea of how much they pay them selves
  • where did the money from the last 2 yrs go while They were in Covid Lockdown
  • Who and how many actually visit don’t visitors pay like at the Toronto Art Gallery etc .
  • Free for every one but the people paying Taxes ?????
Reply to  Sandpiper
8 November 2021 9:10 am

Are you implying art galleries belong only in Europe and for those who can afford to travel there? As for our own AGN, an amazing collection and resource right before our eyes. Great art always stirs up differences of opinion and discussion. Rightly so. As for how the gallery operates, important tests in my view include equitable public access and accountability. Further to some of your points, does AGN report to its members and donors in form of a publicly accessible Annual Report? Here is the report from 2019
As a student, I recall seeing The Snail by Henri Matisse at the Tate Gallery in London. I had an OMG moment and finally understood abstract art. I got it. I learned to see differently. I had a similar ah-ha moment at our AGN when I walked in and saw an exhibit by Peter Haller (who happened to be based in Cobourg), strips of black paper on white, white on black and all representing landscapes. Minimalist. So much said with so little! Absolutely impressive.

Reply to  MiriamM
8 November 2021 9:38 am

So many people paying for the pleasure of so few. Perhaps those who want the “arts” should pay for it in full…for their ah-ah moments. Will the users pay the cost???

Reply to  cornbread
8 November 2021 11:08 am

Interesting perspective. From my view, art is a form of education and inspiration of new ideas. I do not have children and have been paying education taxes for decades. I support having ice rinks for the community to enjoy but am a terrible skater and stay off the rinks enjoying a hot chocolate while chatting with people. Bottom line: It is about the common good.

Reply to  MiriamM
8 November 2021 11:47 am

Then lets spend the money where it can do some real
and valuable Good like eliminating home less , helping Seniors stay in their homes , People with Disabilities that have not seen an increase in their benefits in 10 yrs .
To many people have lost their incomes as a result of Covid and despite what the GOVT. tells us those jobs are gone . Art has a place in society but not at the cost of the vulnerable

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Sandpiper
9 November 2021 7:59 am

Art has a place in society but not at the cost of the vulnerable”

No where is art taking $$$$$ away from the vulnerable. Matter of fact, quite the opposite. For example, NHH calls on the artists of the Spirit of the Hills Art Association, the opporunity to hang their art along one of he hospitals hallways. They are for sale. The NHH gets a cut. What a win win win. And of course the NHH is visited by the vulnerable every minute of every day. The presence of such creativity in the hallways uplifts the vulnerable.

Art can be seen in the hallways of many hospitals across the nation, The same is true in the LTC facilities, art is on the walls, to uplift the very very vulnerable. Art is anywhere and it benefits the vulnerable.

The bandshell in the park provides the art of music for all. Perhaps music should be regarded as frivolous when there are so many vulnerable about?

ART (literature, visual, music, performative) benefits the vulnerable, inspires the spirit, strengthens the spirit. That is worth more than a tightwad’s foolish call to DEFUND THE ARTS.

Leona Woods
Reply to  MiriamM
8 November 2021 1:11 pm

Good points Miriam.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
9 November 2021 7:35 am

The Art Gallery provided a wonderful service recently when they organized the painting of Town trash cans by Cobourg youth. This project had a lot of challenges given that Covid severely interfered. But there was a healthy persistence, and when the window opened, the Gallery gathered aspiring young artists and provided an opportunity for them to express their creativity. There is a presumption that art is something that hangs on a wall. The presumption is largely correct. So it is the domain of the hoity-toity and the hoi-paloi grumble outside. That is a very myopic view of the Gallery. It serves the community by (1) encouraging youth creativity (2) replacing rusted graffiti cans with beautiful ones, (3) distributing this art throughout the community for our enjoyment. We have enhanced the ambience of our parks. Now that is worth something. Of course the tightwads would argue the purely utilitarian. The cans don’t need painting. They serve their purpose without all this unneeded artsy-fartsy expense. The Gallery has art experts. Yep, a lot of enthusiastic volunteers and donors, but also a professional expert concerning things artistic. The recent 7 Virtues crosswalk fiasco informs me that in its haste, the Town did not consult the arts experts on the appropriateness of putting such a profoundly sensitive cultural work on a cross walk for vehicles to run over on their way to the liquor store. Very bad optics. The Art Gallery could have saved the Town a lot of money and grief if they were utilized for this public project. The Gallery can do a lot more to outreach art into the public domain and to continue encouraging and providing opportunities for aspiring artists. The Gallery is so much more than a storage area for art. It is a vital centre for creativity, and… Read more »

Reply to  MiriamM
8 November 2021 11:06 am

FYI my wife is a long time Artist its all over the house I know .
We recently went to see the Beyond Monet art show in Tor .
Seniors price $39.– plus travel and or parking . No one subsidizes
our personal passions and interest any more than you might support
the cost of a round of Golf . Lets face reality Time are a changing
Inflation is here . The Town needs to run things a little differently .
Real Accountability is a requirement not an option .
we have no idea what’s really happening here.

Leona Woods
Reply to  Sandpiper
8 November 2021 1:16 pm

I have not been to the AGO in 15 years but I pay a membership every year and make a donation so that seniors and students can access the gallery at a subsidized rate. I am pleased to know that if I can not make it to the gallery others can. I hope you and your wife enjoyed Beyond Monet at the Convention Centre.

Reply to  Leona Woods
8 November 2021 2:05 pm


Reply to  MiriamM
8 November 2021 3:10 pm

I looked at the financials you provided
Self serving and wide open to interpretation
in my opinion — But then we were always
income earning and if you weren’t you didn’t survive.
There is Nothing Wrong with a Profit ! and
Financial Independence
The only positive factor is that they raised $5,000.–
in commissioned sales So we are a competitive Art dealer / store to the private sector again

8 November 2021 8:28 am

If the art gallery had ice and there was hockey involved there would be no question as to support from council. As soon as anything cultural is involved there is no money and no support. The community centre runs a huge deficit every year and yet that doesn’t seem to matter. The art gallery is important in the lives of just as many as the sports community I hope council will keep this in mind we need both

Reply to  Carol
8 November 2021 9:16 am

If its just as important as Hockey to many then they should pay for the privilege. Just as though you you went to a Hockey game .
Two wrongs don;t make a wright . How many Financial loosers does 1 town need I think there should be accountability and a proper accounting
other wise we have another LUCI on our hands .

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Carol
8 November 2021 10:40 am

“As soon as anything cultural is involved there is no money and no support”

How is that statement true given the town support for the public library? I would consider it cultural.

Carol Farren
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
9 November 2021 10:08 am

The library is a necessity perhaps not for you but for many including our children. Learning is not cultural it is our future.

Old Sailor
8 November 2021 8:22 am

Has the AGN achieved the cultural or tourism goals hoped for by a 3rd floor tenant at Victoria Hall?