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Reflections of a Custodian of “culture” in a Board gone rogue

Reflections of a Custodian of “culture” in a Board gone rogue

TORONTO – It’s painful; I know. Reading about yourself as if you were not in the room, not a part of the discussion, and realizing that the discussion is taking a decidedly negative turn for the worse. Truth be told, your image and reputation (if you had one, and if it matters) is becoming of interest only to those seeking the assistance of law enforcement officials.
 
You are puzzled, or pretend to be, by the negative public reaction to your plans to construct yet another complex of condominiums and townhouses. It’s "progress"; you bluster, and that’s what the community is all about. Besides, you add as an afterthought, we’ll generate the funds to run programs that would otherwise disappear.
 
Sometimes you ask yourself what they are – no one else seems to know or believe in them. Then again, who knows who you are? Yours is just another name on a list of “self-hating Italians”.
 
Being on a Board might pad your Curriculum Vitae; Lord forbid you should "ask a question when you are at the table". You are here to "serve the community" they say. You don’t really know how but it seems like an impressive operation and, at first, you wonder if you are up to the task.
 
Then, nudge-nudge, wink- wink, someone adds, "but if you see a $100 bill on the floor, don’t be afraid to pick it up." You pass it off as a casual comment that merely suggests you should enjoy any perks associated with service. And you carry on trying to figure out what your role is.
 
There seems to be a lot of activity. You notice that the grounds host all manner of events. Social, political, "artistic" personalities are always around. It’s the place to be and to be seen. The "Rotonda" is THE meeting place in Toronto for Italian Canadians and visiting dignitaries. Ristorante Boccaccio seems to be the place everyone wants to go; and the Carrier Art Gallery is the most renowned art gallery in Toronto, aside from the AGO.
 
Who are you to argue, you ask yourself. Then, gradually, some things just seem to "fall out place". 
 
A couple of hundred thousand dollars are allocated to give the Boccaccio a make-over, make it more "downtown like". People stop coming. 
 
The Day Care Centre – children, the pride and joy of everything in an Italian family – is investigated by government officials. There is a forensic audit discovering numerous example of financial and service malpractice. Money is set aside to "fight off prying eyes". 
 
Scapegoating results. The "people at the top" assure us it’s not a big deal. They should know. Some start to make their way to the exit doors. The Board is well-connected and the organization dodges a bullet.
 
More changes, seemingly without rhyme or reason, but "you go along to get along". Some question whether the Columbus Centre any longer has any validity. After all, they say, the Italian Consulate General no longer holds its National Day celebrations there. The familiar Italian Canadian "institutions" are leaving the premises, or are discouraged from staying. 
 
Even the world-renowned Alberto Di Giovanni Library, home to the largest collection of the works of Dante Alighiere, is no more. All that remains is the Carrier Art Gallery and the Rotonda, together considered by some as the heart and soul of Italianita’ in the GTA.
We just shut them down. 
The Art collection is being transferred. Where? For how long? Don’t worry, they say. The Catholic School Board wants to build a new school on the site. It will be better than the Columbus Centre, they say. Without the history, without the collection of the community’s creative contribution… without a heart and without a soul. The provincial government is giving them $32.8 million. Who am I to argue?
 
Now they are also talking about the Villa Colombo as "obsolete". Maybe it is time to speak up … or to
…Resign.
 
More in Esteri
Cafone-in-chief
Mar Sun ,2017