Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark declined to elaborate on why half the Remai Modern board is leaving after city council unanimously approved changes Monday afternoon.Clark said political interference from city council with the art gallery’s operation is inappropriate after departing board members claimed or hinted at political meddling.Secretary Alison Norlen said in an email to The StarPhoenix Monday that she and board chair Scott Verity were told by Clark on Feb. 13 they would not be returning.Norlen shared her letter of resignation, in which she suggests she and Verity were not reappointed because of their “strong voices,” and for differing with city council.“I want it to be clear that there has been some comments about council getting involved in the vision of the gallery, those things,” Clark told reporters. “That is not our job and … I want to be clear that we’re not interested in getting involved in decisions around programming and those things.“Our job is to appoint the board and that’s how we support the mandate of the gallery.”Clark declined an opportunity to deny outright that there had been political interference. Clark said he was reluctant to answer questions due to the confidential process of volunteer board appointments.He walked away from reporters seeking further comment.Six outgoing Remai Modern art gallery board members, including Norlen sent emails to add to Saskatoon city council’s agenda for Monday’s meeting, to clarify why they are not returning.Verity identified himself last week as among two members who were informed they would not be welcome back on the council-appointed board. That triggered four resignations with the entire board executive leaving.“It is impossible to not question and take offence to this news,” Norlen wrote. “I wish the Remai success, but caution against decisions that (can) be seen as political, as opposed to the best interest of our magnificent modern gallery.”She adds of herself and Verity, “that our high level of experience is seen as undesirable at this point in the Remai’s progression, at least according to city council.”Norlen noted she is a graduate of Yale with 29 years of post-secondary teaching experience.Vice-chair Trent Bester, treasurer Jenna Richards and board members Garnet McElree, Veronica Gamracy and Karen Chad confirmed they have decided not to continue on the board.Chad had decided in October she did not plan to return.
Saskatoon’s Remai Modern
Michelle Berg /
Gamracy submitted her letter of resignation for inclusion with her email, but it was redacted from the public version of the city council agenda. However, Gamracy sent her letter of resignation to The StarPhoenix last week. In it, she said the relationship between the City of Saskatoon and the gallery board had become “problematic.”Richards also sent her letter of resignation to The StarPhoenix last week. She and Gamracy declined to comment further. Verity has also hinted at political interference.On Feb. 19, following a nine-hour in camera meeting of council’s governance and priorities committee, council endorsed five new members for the board. The revamped board was given final approval Monday as part of a unanimous vote to approve a number of items on council’s consent agenda.There was no discussion of the matter.Four board members are known to be returning: Coun. Mairin Loewen, Coun. Cynthia Block, Fatima Coovadia and Grant Stoneham.Beau Atkins is also believed to be returning, according to Clark.The changes come as the art gallery searches for a new executive director and CEO with the departure of Gregory Burke in about three weeks. Burke is leaving for a similar job with an art gallery in hometown of Auckland, New Zealand after steering the gallery to a first year that surpassed projections for attendance, revenue and memberships.Clark acknowledged the gallery is “helping to put Saskatoon on the map.“I’ve seen the hard work and dedication from the board that’s been there and I’m very grateful for that,” Clark firstname.lastname@example.org/thinktankSKRelated