- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

The new Advisory Committee for Owen Sound's  Tom Thomson Art Gallery held its inaugural meeting today.
The gallery's board of management was disbanded after a significant financial deficit was discovered late last year, and director and curator Virginia Eichhorn resigned this month. Starting now  the gallery will be overseen by this Committee which reports directly to the City Manager and Council.
Members of the Advisory Committee at the meeting included three city councillors – Richard Thomas,who was elected Chair, Travis Dodd and Marion Koepke. Neil Devlin, who was on the original building committee for the existing Gallery, lawyer Megan Celhoffer, art patron Trevor Falk and artist Ann Keeling were also around the table.
As an introduction, Interim Curator David Huff, a staff member of the gallery for twenty-nine years, provided the Committee members with a history of the Tom Thomson and its namesake. Staff gave a tour of the facility and the permanent collection of over 2400 works by Canadian artists.
Kate Allen, the City's Director of Corporate Services, explained why the final amount of the gallery's deficit was not yet clear. Final reports on project-specific multi-year grants have just been completed, and decisions have yet to be received from those provincial and federal funders about how much of that money may have to be returned.
Allen said the 2018 budget had been reviewed line-by-line with the staff in November, and includes a reduction of over $260,000 in wages from 2017. It is an achievable budget based on pre-2016 numbers, according to Huff, and the goal going forward will be to meet the core mandate of the Gallery and to deliver as much quality programming as current staffing will allow. Balancing current granting priorities of funders - with their focus on practising, living artists - with use of the gallery's permanent collection and remaining in tune with the local community, is the challenge curators will have to meet.
No one at the table was able to speak to the financial status of the Tom Thomson Art Foundation, a private non-profit foundation originally created to raise money for the proposed expansion of the Gallery – a project now on indefinite hold.
City Manager Wayne Ritchie said he expected Committee members to provide "ideas, input and elbow-grease" to the continued work of the gallery over the months ahead.


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