New board, fresh start for Lawrence House

Lawrence House Centre for the Arts

Lawrence House
Centre for the Arts

The new chairman of the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts says it is “too much of a jewel to the city to let it close.”

Leonard Segal will chair the new 12-member board of directors trying to preserve the vision and the work of Lawrence House.

Just before Christmas, the then-board closed the doors on Christina Street after Revenue Canada froze its bank accounts. There were outstanding employee contributions due and a $30,000 debt. The board was going to ask city council to float a short-term loan to the organization when the Alix Foundation stepped in and provided $50,000 to keep the doors open and the arts education programs going.

Last week, then-chair Bryan Trothen announced the entire board would resign at the annual general meeting and there was a full slate of volunteers ready to take up the cause of finding ways to continue programing.

Segall was one of the people who stepped forward. “I had heard the outgoing board was going to resign and that there was a time when they thought they would have to recommend closing Lawrence House,” he says. “I felt it was too much of a jewel to the city to let it close…with the board resigning it allowed new people to come forward and I felt it was incumbent on me to look for people.”

Segall, who is active with the local pottery guild and photography club, recruited long-time members of the arts community, including several people who were on the Sarnia Arts Council when Lawrence House first opened its doors.

The volunteers were all elected at the annual general meeting and held their first meeting as soon as it was done.

Segall says the former board did a good job keeping Lawrence House going when funding dried up. And he says, by negotiating an agreement with the City of Sarnia to administer Lawrence House’s arts programs, the organization is in a good position to return to its former health.

Segall says the arts programs are the highest priority and were a break-even proposition but took a lot of time to administer. The deal with the city will free up volunteers to do other things.

“The board’s first priority is to get our arms around the finances,” says Segall. “We are solvent right now but there are immediate decisions to be made on the finances right now…that’s our immediate priority.

“The second priority is to figure out how were going to run Lawrence House. There are a lot of different views within the board; we need to meet and figure out what direction we have to go. We’re going to approach it in a brain storm fashion; put all the ideas on the table and then figure out where were going to go.”

– Heather Wright