Lawrence House board to step down: suggests canceling school program

Lawrence House Center for the Arts

Lawrence House Center for the Arts

Saying they’ve reached the end of their tether, the entire board of directors at the Lawrence House Center for the Arts will be stepping down.

But President Bryan Trothen says there is a whole new group of volunteers ready to pick up the work of trying to get the troubled institution back in fiscal shape.

Lawrence House closed its doors late in 2012 after the bank froze its accounts at Revenue Canada’s request. The organization had lost an Ontario Arts Council grant and racked up $35,000 in debt including payroll deductions from Revenue Canada.

Judith and Norman Alix made a surprise $50,000 donation to the organization just before Christmas, allowing the organization to reopen. But the board of directors knew that gift would only last so long. Trothen warned at the time that there would likely only be enough cash to run the organization’s programs for the first quarter until a scheduled annual general meeting for April 18. By then, the board had hoped to have found new sources of revenue to keep the programs running.

So far, Trothen says that hasn’t materialized.

But he says there has been a great deal of public support. “We have, over the past several months, spoken to many individuals and organizations and found a great deal of moral support and encouragement,” says Trothen noting there have been new alliances forged with organizations such as the art gallery and the city.

And he says volunteers from the community have stepped forward, too.

So the board, Trothen says, will step down en mass at Wednesday’s meeting. “It does seem kind of abrupt,” Trothen says. “The five of us agreed we had reached the end of the tether and it was time to take a completely different look at things and get going.

“We are exhausted. We’ve worked hard for quite some time. Every time we turn around there is some problem or another. We believe there are people who are willing to take over and its time they step up.”

Trothen says the outgoing board will be presenting a full slate of candidates to fill the five vacant positions. And he will stay on as an adviser. A representative appointed by the City of Sarnia will also remain.

Trothen says the group will have new ideas on how to revive the sagging organization but the outgoing board believes they’ll have to severely scale back to start including suspending operations of the Art Goes To School program.

“Our biggest expense is education programing; it has always been able to meet its own cost but has never been able to return a profit,” says Trothen. Cancelling or suspending the program would mean the last of the Lawrence House’s paid staff would be out of a job.

Trothen says business hours could be reduced with volunteers providing basic services to further save money and allow the center to focus on displaying art and being involved in First Friday.

Trothen adds these are only recommendations by the outgoing board and members and the new board will set the course for the future starting at Wednesday’s annual general meeting.

– Heather Wright