Nova Scotia

N.S. culture minister questions art gallery's commitment to Yarmouth

The cabinet minister responsible for overseeing the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is not happy there were plans to keep the gallery's western branch closed again this summer. Suzanne Lohnes-Croft said the board has reconsidered that decision, but she wants a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible to talk about the future of the Yarmouth facility.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia says its western branch, which was closed last year, will reopen next month

The western branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has been closed since January 2020. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

A provincial cabinet minister is seeking assurances from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's board that it is committed to its Yarmouth branch after she learned second-hand of plans that would have closed the site for the second consecutive summer.

The gallery said Friday its western branch will reopen next month, but Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, the minister responsible for culture, said she wants to meet face to face with the board, as soon as possible, to discuss the site's future.

The provincial gallery has two locations: one in Yarmouth and another in Halifax, where plans are underway for a new $130-million gallery on the city's waterfront.

"It's an art gallery for all Nova Scotia, not just Halifax," said Lohnes-Croft. "We call it the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for a reason."

The Yarmouth branch has been closed since January 2020, and according to the minister, there were plans to keep it closed this summer.

The branch initially shut down because of a ventilation system malfunction that caused smoke damage. Repairs and the search for parts further delayed its reopening.

Some local artists had said they were worried the plan was to keep the building closed and centralize operations in Halifax.

The only information about the Yarmouth branch on the gallery's website as of early Friday afternoon was a note saying the site remains closed.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the gallery's director of marketing and visitor experience said it remains committed to Yarmouth.

Colin Stinson said the western branch will reopen July 2. He added the gallery's website would be updated with information Friday.

"We look forward to welcoming people back to the western branch," he said.

Lohnes-Croft, the minister of communities, culture and heritage, said there were plans to keep the Yarmouth branch of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia closed this summer. (Nova Scotia Legislature)

Lohnes-Croft said she's pleased to hear about the change of plans. But she said communication needs to be improved between the government and organizations like the gallery that are funded, in part, by the province.

The minister said she first heard about plans to keep the western branch closed for a second summer from cabinet colleague Zach Churchill, who represents Yarmouth. She said no one from the gallery spoke to her or asked for a meeting.

"I think we really need to work on those types of communications with the organizations that we govern and we are the watchdog for," said Lohnes-Croft.

"I should certainly be in the loop."

Although the gallery generates funds through admissions, its gift shop and online sales, as well as donations, the Nova Scotia government is its main funding source.

The board is scheduled to meet virtually June 24 for its annual general meeting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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