Supporters urge Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to reconsider closure of Yarmouth location

The mayor of Yarmouth says she didn't know the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was shutting down its western branch in her town until she saw workers removing some of the gallery's signs.

"There was no absolutely no indication until it happened," Pam Mood told CBC News.

"It was just wrong. You don't do something like that to a community without at least a heads-up."

The Friends of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Western Branch Society said they were also blindsided by the decision, which the gallery announced in a May 3 news release.

JoAnn Ranson, who chairs the non-profit organization, said the group collaborated with the gallery for two decades. She said while she appreciates the challenges of budgets, she doesn't understand why there weren't any discussions about the closure.

"A conversation about a transition period or options for fundraising or grant writing or something that could bridge a difficult situation," she said.

The gallery's CEO Sarah Moore Fillmore could not explain the rationale for not consulting with the arts group that provides services and programs at the Yarmouth location. She called it "a good question"

"There's been a long-time conversation, over years, that we've been trying to determine the best model and the best way forward," she said. "We find ourselves in this situation and this is how this has gone."

Moore Fillmore said her organization had started talks with partners about a "mutually satisfying path" forward for the programs and services and had one meeting with the non-profit. But she said reconsidering the decision to close the branch was not an option.

"It does not include the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia running that branch, no," said Moore Fillmore.

Despite that, both the town and the friends organization want a chance to change the AGNS board's mind and are asking for a meeting.

Last year it cost $109,118 to run the western branch on a seasonal basis.

Ranson said her group has raised about that amount through community events over a year.

"So we could do it again. $100,000 is not at all something we couldn't have worked [on] together," she said.

JoAnn Ranson chair the group Friends of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Western Branch.
JoAnn Ranson chairs the Friends of the AGNS Western Branch Society. (Submitted by JoAnn Ranson)

Mood said she isn't beyond begging.

"When something is important enough to a community, you do what you have to do to make sure that it stays," she said.

"To me, it's not about money because there's always a way to find funds for something that's important, and this is important."