The Chatham Daily News

Going public with art


A local patron of the arts is hoping to see the municipality develop a committee to accept gifts of art for public buildings.

Ridgetown lawyer Douglas Desmond, organizer of the annual Desmond Juried Art Exhibition and Sale, said there's no process in place for a person to gift artwork to the municipality.

He said it shows in the lack of art in public buildings throughout Chatham-Kent.

"I would like to see stuff at the courthouse and city hall," he said.

Desmond recently sent a letter to Mayor Randy Hope and councillors urging them to consider creating a committee authorized to accept gifts of art on behalf of the municipality and offer tax receipts for the fair market value of the gifts.

Hope said he's received Desmond's letter and passed it along to administration.

"I've asked staff to look at it and get back to me," he said. "Hopefully we can move forward."

Carl Lavoy, director/curator of the Thames Art Gallery, said Desmond is right that there is no policy in place for the municipality to accept works of art as gifts.

"The Thames Gallery does have a permanent collection and it does accept works," he said. "We're not in the position to put those works in public buildings."

He said there's a lot to think about with a venture like the one Desmond is proposing.

"It is a real tricky situation," he said. "It's a very intriguing process."

Lavoy said details such as who picks the art, who takes care of it, how it is appraised and what goes where are just a few of the considerations.

"It's possible, it just really needs to be thought out," he said, adding he supports the idea. "I think it's great to have artwork in places where people can see it. I think it's a good idea."

Desmond said art is important for the public to see as it provokes, informs and documents.

However, the biggest reason he'd like to see it in public buildings is for the way it makes people feel.

"It's just uplifting," he said. "It improves the atmosphere."

He said it's impossible to go into a gallery or museum and have a bad day.

Desmond said empowering people to gift art to the municipality makes sense.

"It gives an opportunity to the citizens of Chatham-Kent to support the art community," he said.

The Desmond Juried Art Exhibition and Sale, which runs from June 13-24 at Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph, has the theme Celebrating Canadian Rural Living.

Desmond said he'd like a committee to be formed before that so it can approve works in the show for donations.

He said much of the work he's seen in recent years is very large and well suited for an institutional setting such as city hall or the courthouse.

"Our public buildings could accommodate canvases that reflect our rural and agricultural surroundings," he said.

- Reprinted with permission -

Update: Letter from the Mayor regarding art donations (PDF)

< Back