Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/5/2009 (2928 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Graffiti Gallery's firing of its founder has angered a prominent Winnipeg artist and community activist.
Jordan Van Sewell, whose South Point Douglas home is nearby the Higgins Avenue institution, says the gallery's board of directors has been callous and disrespectful toward Stephen Wilson, who was shuffled out the door in mid-May after building the gallery from nothing a decade ago.
"I have a feeling his dismissal is wrong," said Van Sewell, a sculptor who has been vocal in support of urban renewal in Point Douglas.
"Steve isn't a bookkeeper -- he's a creative force. Boards and executive directors have responsibility to work together for the betterment of society."
Marv Terhoch, the president of Graffiti Art Programing, has maintained that Wilson was let go because of an ongoing administrative "reorganization" and not for reasons related to his performance. He refused further comment.
Wilson, meanwhile, has not returned phone messages.
A former prison guard, Wilson started the organization to provide an outlet for at-risk youth, many of them aboriginal and some ex-convicts, to make graffiti art in a socially acceptable context.
Since then the organization, now constituted as a non-profit body with a wide range of programming, has found favour with numerous social service agencies. In 2007 it was the location of a high-profile visit by Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean.
It receives almost $1 million a year in public funds, mostly in project grants, from city and provincial bodies.
Art programming for inner-city youth has become a "business," says Van Sewell, pointing to such organizations as Art City on Broadway and the West End Cultural Centre.
"Business is a good thing," he says. "It makes the city a better place."
But along with that, he says, comes a responsibility to treat its leaders, such as Wilson, with more respect.
"He was a pioneer," Van Sewell says. "We need the truth to come out about what happened."
Van Sewell served as a board member of the Winnipeg Art Gallery for six years until 2008. Ironically, during that time, the WAG parted ways with its respected director Pat Bovey over issues that were never made public.
Van Sewell recognizes the irony.
"Executive directors are treated badly in this town," he says. "A lot of organizations get that way."
Terhoch himself was fired from his high-profile job in 1994 as regional director of CBC Manitoba. He was later found guilty of expense-account fraud and served a 10-month conditional sentence.