New focus on performance means closure of Saidye Bronfman gallery, art school
The Saidye Bronfman Centre, Montreal's multidisciplinary arts venue, announced dramatic changes Tuesday, namely an exclusive focus on performance and the shuttering of both its contemporary art gallery and fine art school.
A new performing arts academy will "focus on nurturing talent in theatre, dance, music. That's essentially what the centre will become," spokesperson Peter Kalichman told CBC News on Tuesday.
"The change in physical space will be kind of a reworking of the way the space is allocated now. The space within the Saidye will be reconfigured to accommodate the new vocation," said Kalichman, also president of the Young Men's-Young Women's Hebrew Association of Montreal.
The centre's School of Fine Arts and its Youth Institute will close on March 31, when the current programs end their semesters, while the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery for contemporary art will close July 1.
Both the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre andthe Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre will continue to present their upcoming seasons.
Asearch is now on for a general manager to oversee the new centre as well as develop plans for the new performing arts academy.
Created in 1967 as Montreal cultural centre
Funded by the Bronfman family, who named the venue after matriarch Saidye, the centre was established in 1967 as a not-for-profit centre for the arts.
Run by and situated alongside the YM-YWHA, the centre washometo the notable art gallery, the theatres staging English and Yiddish-language productions and the school, which offered introductory- to professional-level classes in a range of fine art disciplines, including painting, sculpture and photography.
According to Kalichman, a complex series of pressures led to the changes. Financial issues were involved, with the centre's three entities (gallery, theatres and school) all having to compete for funding.
The centre's fine art education department has also increasingly faced more intense competition from other outlets offering similar classes. The school has seen its enrolment decline over the years.
Marilyn Reim started taking courses at the school —where her teachers included Montreal sculptor Stanley Lewis — as a hobby.
"I started as an adult student. It was something I did as a hobby, which turned out to be a career," said Reim, who is now a professional artist.
"[The centre] kept me sane for many years. It's a very important part of our community, as a Jewish community, as a Montreal community," she added.
"I'm very sad and I'm sort of heartsick at giving that up," she said. "It just doesn't seem right."
Separation from YM-YWHA
Tuesday's announcement also included the news that the centre will officially cease to be a branch of the YM-YWHA as of June 1.
The new incarnation of the centre will be a separate agency of the Federation CJA, the central organization in charge of funding, planning, and coordinating services in Montreal's Jewish community.
The YM-YWHA is considering introducing its own visual arts program to make up for the Bronfman school's closure and supporters of the gallery are working to find a new location to house its collection.