Brock and community partners finalize plan to secure future of Rodman Hall collection

Brock University and Rodman Hall Art Centre (RHAC) Inc., a community not-for-profit citizens group, have finalized plans to ensure the art collection within Rodman Hall will remain a community asset with a sustainable future. The initiative will see the art collection return to community ownership under the stewardship of the RHAC Inc. The Rodman Hall property itself has been acquired by a new community-based owner.

Securing reliable community ownership for the art has been a goal of the University since it stepped forward to save the collection and Rodman Hall in 2003, at a time when its future was in serious doubt.

Under the agreement, the University will transfer ownership of the art collection to RHAC Inc., a group that has worked with Brock on a strategy to ensure proper management and presentation of the collection. The art collection comprises approximately 1,000 objects, including paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by Canadian, American and European artists from the past three centuries.

Brock will also provide RHAC Inc. with seed funding to help the organization establish a new community location, while the City of St. Catharines will work with RHAC Inc. to help identify potential locations to house the collection.

St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik said the new agreement represents a strategic and sustainable solution for ensuring the future of the artwork.

“This is a positive move forward in creating a space in which people can experience and explore visual public art in St. Catharines,” said Sendzik. “The City looks forward to working with RHAC Inc. and Brock to find a suitable, accessible location for this important art collection.”

“We are thankful to RHAC Inc.’s community members for stepping forward, and to Brock University for its considerable investments over the years to safeguard and steward the collection and the site.”

In a parallel arrangement, the Rodman Hall property in west St. Catharines is being purchased by a local group headed by Nino Donatelli, who has an established reputation for heritage building restoration and conversion and property redevelopment. Previous projects include the commercial core in Old Port Dalhousie, and the former Domtar/CN rail lands in Merritton that include the Keg Restaurant and the Stone Mill Inn Plaza.

“I am excited by the opportunity to explore the potential for refashioning this iconic property for additional residential uses while preserving the historic home and gardens,” said Donatelli.

University President Gervan Fearon said Brock and RHAC Inc. have worked together to ensure the art collection continues to be a community-owned asset with a sustainable future.

Fearon said protecting this seminal archive of local artwork was a key reason why Brock first agreed to assume responsibility for the collection and Rodman Hall 17 years ago, when the future of both was in question. During that span, the University has spent more than $7-million maintaining the collection and the site.

“Brock is a community partner, and one of our core priorities is a commitment to support the vitality of the Niagara community,” said Fearon.

“It has been a privilege to partner with these community leaders and the RHAC Inc. Each shares a common goal to protect the integrity of the art collection, which is a unique and irreplaceable community asset. The new plan ensures that the community will be able to enjoy and access the collection, and indeed will be the rightful owner of it.”

Lynn Wells, the University’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, said Brock is delighted that RHAC Inc. is taking on this role.

“Brock has had a strong connection with the local arts community, especially through the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, and we’re delighted that the art will remain in Niagara and in a new location,” said Wells. “It is crucial to protect the future for this important collection.”

RHAC inc. is a not-for-profit, community-based corporation established in 2019 to operate a public art gallery for the Niagara community. Its Chair Jean Bridge said the collection is an important community asset that must be protected and appreciated.

“RHAC inc. welcomes the opportunity provided by Brock University to ensure that Rodman Hall’s very fine art collection is well maintained, its archives fully catalogued and key elements of the collection digitized,” said Bridge. “We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Brock and the City of St. Catharines in planning for the future of our community public art gallery.”

RHAC member Ken Lucyshyn said the group is pleased to be taking on a central role in the plan.

“The University has enabled RHAC Inc. to take on management of the RHAC permanent art collection,” said Lucyshyn, who is Executive Vice President, Aggregates & Construction at Walker Industries Holdings. “RHAC Inc. is set to engage a professional museum registrar who will be responsible for the day-to-day work of maintaining the condition, records and use of the collection.”

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