In 2003 Brock University purchased Rodman Hall for a total of two dollars, due to the economic inflation of the 1990s, from a not-for-profit organization.
Rodman Hall is significant to the community as a historic site, an art gallery, an education facility and a local safe haven for artists.
Following the acquisition, an agreement was made that Brock would fund and maintain Rodman Hall for the following 20 years as part of the university.
Flash forward to 2016: It is seven years away from that obligation deadline in 2023 and Brock is in the midst of discussing and reviewing the potential of dividing itself from Rodman Hall.
Back in March, Brian Hutchings, Vice President of Finance and Administration, said “obviously we don’t have the surplus we once had. Budgets are getting tighter, [and] across the board we’re looking at programs and student use, and Rodman Hall is part of that.”
Earlier this year, Brock and The Board of Trustees hired Interkom Smart Marketing, which is a consultation company, to help assist with a transition plan for Rodman Hall.
“What the consultant is doing, is going around and talking to various people in the provincial government, the federal governments, the local governments to see if there’s an interest in an art gallery in the Niagara region and if there’s interest in partnering on that art gallery,” said Hutchings.
The idea is that Rodman Hall will be passed back into the community, potentially to a not-for-profit ownership or an interested investor, in order for the art gallery to keep thriving as it does.
“It’s going to be an ongoing process until we work it out and see what community partners we can get,” Hutchings said. “That’s why we’re starting early, it’s a long process.”
But that has the local community and artists concerned about the lack of options being presented to make sure that the nature of Rodman Hall is preserved.
Julia Blushak, a local artist and designer, spoke at the recent community consultations with the hope that people’s voices and concerns are being heard.
“There was no advanced notice for the first two meetings,” said Blushak. “So I contacted the press in order to bring awareness because this is an important issue that is worth discussing.”
Blushak said there is concern within the local community about the preservation of the culture of Rodman Hall. There are many who fear that the atmosphere and presentation of the art gallery would change for the worse if the correct course of action is not taken.
“The building and the landscape is a treasure and it should stay the same,” said Blushak, “Brock could include Rodman Hall in its future development rather than leaving it.”
Although that isn’t an option being presented at the consultation meetings, there are three alternative choices being offered to the public in order to seek advice from the community: for Rodman Hall to maintain status quo through community and city funding, the potential of Rodman Hall becoming a regional art gallery with ownership from a not-for-profit, or a new configuration from investor and developer funding.
Blushak said that although this is only the beginning of a long dialogue, the conversation is extremely important in terms of preserving the vitality of the historic site due to its cultural and artistic roots in the local community.
“It seems that Interkom is only interested in capital needs and investment,” said Blushak. “They aren’t leaving room for other ideas from the community.”
There are a variety of possibilities for the future of Rodman Hall that will be explored in the coming years and Blushak stressed the importance of being a part of the discourse between the community and the university.
According to Brock, Interkom will be submitting a report to The Board of Trustees at the end of this academic term with possible options and opinions that were created in part with input from the community.