Cobourg Council – Dressler Portrait Will Return

In City Hall, Local, News

Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Marie Dressler Foundation president Rick Miller appeared before Cobourg council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday with a question – exactly who decides what photos, artwork or other memorabilia can be displayed at Victoria Hall?
Miller conveyed the foundation’s disappointment that a high-quality portrait of the Cobourg-born Oscar-winning actress – which had been installed with great ceremony in December 2016 in the Victoria Hall Citizens’ Forum – was recently removed with no notification to the foundation whatsoever.
Though a National Heritage Site, Miller said, Victoria Hall is a public building with municipal offices, council chambers and meeting rooms, historic rooms like the Old Bailey Courthouse, the Art Gallery of Northumerland, and public amenities for rent like the Citizens’ Forum and Concert Hall.
In these areas, many different displays can be found – war memorials, framed local landscapes, promotions for events at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall, and portraits of prominent former Cobourg residents. Why was Dressler removed, Miller wondered, when there remain portraits of the prominent business leader Edwin Guillet and Victoria College founder Egerton Ryerson.
He has since learned of a community group’s objection to the portrait, based on their conviction that it would be better displayed at the Dressler House museum since she has nothing to do with Victoria Hall per se.
He has also since failed to find any formal policy governing such displays.
“What if I object to the landscape prints? What if I don’t like that picture of Lenah Fisher or Edwin Guillet?” Miller protested.
“I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Without any guidelines, there has been some unilateral action taken with respect to that dedicated photograph.
“As a board, we are disappointed, because we think there could have been some discussion to find out what’s at the root of the issue,”
The disappointment is especially keen, Miller added, since the board is planning a variety of celebrations this year to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the actress’s birth. They already have council’s approval to put up banners downtown to celebrate the occasion, starting in August.
“Our position is, Marie Dressler is part of Cobourg’s heritage and cultural history, and should be honoured with a photograph in the town’s National Historic Site. It is, in our view, a very reasonable and presentable photograph of Marie Dressler at the height of her career.”
Miller conveyed three requests – to direct chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock to develop a policy governing such displays at Victoria Hall, to bring the policy back to council by Sept. 30, and – because there is presently no such policy – replace the Dressler portrait.
Mayor Gil Brocanier said the portrait is currently in his ground-floor office. He noted that the Sept. 30 deadline coincides with a big dinner the foundation is organizing in Dressler’s honour.
“Would the foundation be open to the portrait going up in an even more prominent place, in case we don’t get the policy in place, because this is a very special year,” Councillor Debra McCarthy enquired.
Though he thought the Citizens’ Forum location was an excellent choice, Miller said, another prominent location would be acceptable.
Deputy Mayor John Henderson made the motion incorporating Miller’s three requests, and council passed it.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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