Canada

A tempest over an art gallery

J.D. April 17 2000
Canada

A tempest over an art gallery

J.D. April 17 2000

A tempest over an art gallery

Hanging in Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre, the reproduction of Robert Harris’s famous portrait of the Fathers of Confederation looks like the original—except for the words “NO GRAFF NO FREEDOM NO FATHER’S” scrawled across the bottom. Before Feb. 21, Terry Graff was simply director and curator at the centre’s newly re-energized art gallery and museum. Now, he just may be the most famous person on the Island—thanks to a decision not to renew his contract. Wayne Hambly, chairman of the board of directors, will only say that Graff lacked “a true commitment to a team efc fort.” But Graff, 45, a native of Cambridge, Ont., I maintains that Hambly and Curtis Barlow, the I centre’s executive director, simply used a trumped§ up accusation—soliciting funds for an exhibition I without the approval of the director of marketing I and development, who also happens to be HamI bly’s sister. The real reason for letting him go, he says, is that many of the shows during his fouryear tenure were controversial. “They want to maintain the status quo,” maintains Graff. “Anne of Green Gables and commercial theatre are all that matters to them.” The Confederation Centre and Island newspapers have been flooded with letters protesting Graff’s dismissal. Local artists have pulled their works from the gallery. So has Robert Tuck, Charlottetown’s Anglican canon and a descendant of Robert Harris, who had loaned works by the famed artist. John MacCallum, who reproduced Harris’s Confederation portrait for the gallery—and who has never denied media speculation that he himself defaced the work— even threatened to burn the painting unless Graff gets his job back. Like others, he wants Premier Pat Binns to step into the controversy. But Binns has tried to avoid taking sides in public—seemingly one of the few Islanders to exercise such restraint.

J.D. in Charlottetown