MacLaren Art Centre: Status march 2004

Statement from Rod Burns,
President MacLaren Board of Directors

News Conference (p. 2)

As you are aware, the MacLaren has been in negotiations for more than a year to secure delivery of the 510 bronzes. We have ownership documents for all 510 bronzes. Our lawyer from Baker MacKenzie, a reputable international law firm, has tried to finalize details of marketing and sales agreements for some time. He has been dealing with Tom Curry, the Canadian lawyer representing the manufactuer of the bronzes - Gruppo Mondiale.

Our lawyer has not been negotiating with Michael Slan, the lawyer that we have so often seen speaking on camera about this transaction. And, for the record negotiations have been on-going until last week. Despite our best efforts negotiations have not been successful to date. We have been unable to come to a reasonable solution as to how proceeds from the sales of the bronzes will be shared.

  • The fact is that Gruppo Mondiale (the Italian manufacturer) has withheld the bronzes that the MacLaren Art Centre has ownership for.

  • There have been innuendos and inaccurate reports that Gruppo Mondiale has never been paid for the bronzes. 

  • This is untrue – Gruppo has received payment for the bronzes – and CRA has confirmed this. I want to make very clear that there has been no misappropriation of funds and there is no missing money.

  • The MacLaren played no role in the distribution of the funds. We were simply the recipient of the donation.

Faskin Martineau, the escrow agent had full responsibility for distributing the funds to the various parties. Since October the MacLaren has been embroiled in a public relations nightmare that has shed considerable doubt on our organization. The public has been led to believe that we have acted inappropriately with regards to this Rodin transaction. This is simply untrue.

There were many times throughout negotiations that we believed this transaction was close to being finalized. Perhaps we can be faulted for being optimistic about a successful outcome. Now, after more than a year of waiting and negotiating in good faith we have found ourselves at a crossroads. We are no longer optimistic that negotiations will lead to a successful outcome. We are now looking at all additional options that may be available to us.

I want to assure this community that we will do everything within our means to recover what is legally ours and we will keep you informed as this process moves forward. We hope the bronzes are delivered to us in a timely manner but can’t even begin to speculate as to when this situation will be resolved.

Through all of the negotiations and bad publicity the MacLaren has always had the best interest of this community in mind. These 510 bronzes would have been of great benefit to this community and the MacLaren is deeply disappointed that we don’t have them to share with you today.

Needless to say, this entire situation has been draining on our human and financial resources. Emotionally, this has been extremely tough on the staff and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to see Rodin complete and to dispel myths and rumours that have been circulating about this transaction.

Financially, the MacLaren has found itself in a precarious situation. In January we told you that the MacLaren was beginning 2004 in a deficit situation and that we were taking measures to reduce the budget by 1/3. Today I am here to tell you that the deficit is expected to be over $1 million. This is obviously a serious situation. A large portion of the deficit is because we expected revenue from the Rodin transaction to be received in 2003 – clearly that did not happen. Another portion of the deficit can be attributed to lawyers fees paid for negotiations to secure delivery of the bronzes. And, as was mentioned in January, another part of the deficit can be attributed to the MacLaren’s move to a new and significantly larger facility. In addition, the bad publicity plaguing the MacLaren in recent months has impeded our ability to address the situation.

But, the simple fact is that if we would have received the bronzes as anticipated in fiscal 2003 the MacLaren would not be facing this significant deficit. Despite these financial challenges the Mac has continued to offer its same level of excellent programming to the community. However, we will not be able to continue to sustain operations unless we secure substantial funding support. We are looking at all possible ways to secure the funds we need to continue to provide this community with the programming they have come to love and expect.

We are looking at selling assets that are surplus to our needs, we are talking to granting agencies and we are setting more ambitious fundraising goals. Now more than ever we need people to step up and support this great institution. Without a doubt, we are facing tough times – but I have every confidence that we can overcome these challenges. We have spent a lot of time lately talking about these 510 Rodin bronzes and it has obscured our other accomplishments. Our successes are all around us. It is everything the MacLaren does and everything it contributes to this community.

It is the building you are in today, the VanGo programme that sees thousands of children yearly, it is classes for adults and children, art therapy, it is the Shorelines exhibition and the film festival and it is the exhibitions of local and international artists – the list is endless.
The MacLaren already does great things for this community. But, we have only just begun to fulfill our goal of bringing art to people and people to art. But we cannot even begin achieve our goals and get the community’s support until we dispel this widespread notion that the MacLaren has been involved in any wrong doing.

The situation is complicated to say this least but the facts are simple and the truth is clear. The MacLaren has conducted itself appropriately and has not been involved in any wrong doing. If anything, we have been the victims and anyone who suggests otherwise is simply adding insult to injury.

Until this is made clear and until we regain the confidence of this community we will have little chance of success. We have been told that we may have the lowest level of government support of any gallery in this province. That is one of the primary reasons we pursued the Rodin transaction in the first place. We saw this as an opportunity to secure long-term funding for this gallery.

With our innovative and entrepreneurial spirit coupled with an insecure funding environment, it was a prudent decision. It was a prudent decision that did not work out as expected and now we are back to where we started. That is, depending on our extremely supportive and generous community to help fund our operations.

We need our community’s support now more than ever. The MacLaren Art Centre has something very special to offer this community and we sincerely hope that despite these recent challenges the community is ready and willing to rise above the adversity. As the local media, and ambassadors to this community, we also hope you will rise to the occasion and help us overcome these challenges.

Page 1 of this statement

Read the article by James Adams in the Toronto Globe and Mail of 10 March 2004 

Read the MacLaren Press Release of 10 March 2004 




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