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Three Rivers cuts down on donation to arts co-op

Three Rivers Coun. Cindy MacLean, left, and Coun. David McGrath chat following council’s monthly meeting Monday.
Three Rivers Coun. Cindy MacLean, left, and Coun. David McGrath chat following council’s monthly meeting Monday. - Mitch MacDonald

A co-operative artists’ gallery may have to go back to the drawing board on how it will operate after receiving less funding than it hoped for.

Three Rivers council voted during last Monday’s regular meeting to support Artisans on Main with a $1,000 grant for rent until the end of December, less than half of the group’s $2,500 request to council.

However, after seeing a $4,600 net profit in 2018 and a projected profit for this year with little explanation of where that money would go, it was clear the majority of councillors were hesitant on granting the full amount.

“We don’t want to give them nothing, but I think this might be a fairer amount,” said Coun. David McGrath, who introduced the $1,000 motion.

The group previously received $2,500 annually during a five-year agreement with the former Montague council. That agreement expired this year.

The group’s future being up in the air also did not help matters. The lease of its current building expires in December, and there is uncertainty whether it will be renewed.

And while the group provided a financial sheet with figures, it seemed to raise more questions than answers.

When councilors asked why the co-operative had $1,200 in entertainment expenses, deputy mayor Debbie Johnston said the group explained that it was more of “promotion through entertainment” by aiding local musicians and drawing people into the shop, while CAO Jill Walsh said she understood it was for food during shows.

However, McGrath noted that would fit more into advertising and promotion, which was another line included in the financial sheet.

Concerns were also raised over the inclusion of a $700 cash shortage in the 2019 estimate.

Johnston said the group, which sells artwork on consignment, included it as a contingency fund.

“I guess once they had something taken from their shop and they didn’t have any place (in their budget) to allow for that,” said Johnston, who described it as a worst-case scenario. “They hope they wouldn’t lose that $700 in a year … it’s just so they would have a bumper.”

Assuming nothing is stolen from the shop this year, Coun. Alan Munro noted the group’s estimated net profit for 2019 would be $3,700. 

After hearing from Johnston that she believed the group never lost money in a year, although that it also wasn’t a big money maker, Munro questioned whether it was council’s responsibility to continue funding the group at the same level.

“I would question if they need our help every year if they are turning a profit,” said Munro. “There are some businesses that don’t turn a profit every year.”

Johnston defended the group throughout the discussion, stating the group relies on the money and had come to expect it after the five-year agreement.

Johnston said she believed any net profit also went back into the co-operative and was not divided up between members.

She also pointed to their success with increasing sales over those five years.

“Their sales now, compared to when they first started out, is amazing. They’ve certainly come a long way in sales and artists being involved. I’d hate to see it not continue for any reason,” said Johnston, adding the shop provided other cultural spin-offs to the community.

The original motion was defeated, with only Johnston and Coun. Wayne Spin voting in favour. 

Council also discussed giving the group a prorated amount, since Montague’s last budget covered the group until the end of March, which would have been about $1,710.

The second motion, to offer $1,000, was passed with all councilors in attendance voting in favour except for Spin, who tried to amend the motion up to $2,000. 


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