Review > What About Rodman Hall?

What About Rodman Hall?
Review by NAC Member Barbara Bucknall

When I went round the Rodman Hall show at NAC on April 21 2016, Steve Remus, who was showing me round, had to explain to me that each exhibit in the show was a comment on Brock University’s move to withdraw from its commitment to support Rodman Hall as a public art gallery for at least 20 years. These comments were all so subtle that they simply could not be heard by ears used to the loud voices of commercial advertising or indeed to the cutthroat competition that goes on in any modern university for status, recognition and grants. So it is highly unlikely that they will be heard by the Brock administrators who are making this decision.

They are certainly not being heard by the general public in spite of the fact that this show was featured in an article in the “St. Catharines Standard.” When I mentioned this move to some friends who are quite lively and aware, they were astonished. They had no idea of it. In spite of its appearance in the local newspaper, the news that Rodman Hall, after having been a real centre in St. Catharines for the visual arts, will probably be obliterated, seems very much a private affair between the artistic community and the university.

I am tempted to speak in the voice of a child and say “The Emperor has no clothes.” But that would be futile when Brock dresses up so much as a patron of the arts and spends so much money to do so. The projected move will probably go forward with nothing being broken but a few hearts and a few careers and at least part of the future of the visual arts in Niagara. An important pillar of the cultural community will have been removed with really very little fuss or embarrassment.

I feel this shows how little genuine creativity for its own sake is valued in the modern world. We chiefly want commercial success. And yet how badly we want creativity in our everyday lives. Even a little creativity would suffice to save some people from the depression, the addiction, the various types of mental illness and the temptation to suicide which besets so many in the western world today. Even such a minimal attempt to support the creative urge as keeping Rodman Hall going might be a finger in the dike against the flood of meaninglessness that threatens to engulf us.

I imagine what chiefly concerns the Brock administrators is the drain on Brock’s finances that subsidizing Rodman Hall might represent. But Brock did have faith at one point that this might not be a losing proposition. After all, it did look at one point as if Brock University itself might be a losing proposition as all the universities seemed in danger. I remember it because I was on the faculty myself at that time. One of my colleagues suggested that I might find alternative employment decorating ceramics. I forget what he thought he might do, but it was nothing very elevated. This did not come to pass. We had faith in ourselves at Brock and survived. Let us have faith in the arts and have faith to the end, not just part of the way.