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WINDSOR, ON – Employees of the Art Gallery of Windsor, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are warning Windsor residents they could lose their art gallery unless municipal council agrees to purchase the building at 401 Riverside Drive West, which houses the gallery.

We have been given layoff notices, and are told that unless municipal council agrees with a proposal to purchase the Gallery’s physical space, Windsor could lose this important cultural venue in the New Year,” said Larry Howe, unit president for CUPE Local 2067.2. “We are calling on the arts community, gallery patrons and the people of Windsor to urge municipal councillors to support their staff’s recommendation, and the proposal put forward by the art gallery’s Board of Directors, to save the facility.”

Twelve CUPE members at the gallery, providing curator, preparatory, building maintenance, education, security and other services at the gallery, could be laid off as early as December 31, if the proposal doesn’t get approved. “We’ve been told that due to financial difficulties and budget planning difficulties, the gallery will close if the City of Windsor doesn’t purchase the building,” said Suanne Hawkins, CUPE national representative. “What is a city without culture, without an art gallery that reflects who we are, who we were and who we could be? We must not lose our sense of history, our sense of place – it would be a great tragedy for the people of Windsor.”

The proposal is expected to be presented for a vote by Windsor Council on December 3, 2012. “Since the end of the Second World War, the Windsor Art Gallery has gone through many changes,” said Howe. “But throughout its history, it has provided an important public art space to showcase local artists, and artists from across the country. It has an impressive collection of Canadian art, and is part of our national heritage. We hope that Windsor council will consider the importance of such a strong cultural icon in our community, both for our cultural heritage and as a focal point for our community and the people who visit here.”

As a National Representative of CUPE, it’s always disheartening to see layoff notices,” said Hawkins. “But what’s at stake here goes way beyond jobs and impacts on the economy. Our members are eager to continue to provide the best curatorial, education, maintenance and security services the arts community and patrons rely on, if the rescue-plan is approved. But if the Windsor Art Gallery is allowed to fail and close its doors, Windsor will lose a place of learning, of sharing of culture and one of the fundamental institutions that any world-class city holds dear – we must not let it happen.”

For further information, please contact:

Suanne Hawkins, CUPE National Representative: 519-966-9595, 226-347-0242 (cell)

Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications: 905-739-3999