Sudbury Arts Council concerned about the future of the Bell Mansion
SUDBURY -- The Sudbury Arts Council is concerned about the future of the Bell Mansion, the current home to the Art Gallery of Sudbury.
The historic mansion is owned by Laurentian University, which is in the midst of an insolvency crisis. As part of that process, the university is reviewing its real estate holdings, with an eye on selling property it doesn't need.
That leaves members of the council wondering what’s going to happen to the site. The heritage building is one of few in the city, an officials with the council said.
“A big part of our concern is that we could wind up losing it completely,” said Linda Cartier.
After the previous owner passed away in 1954, the building was left to the former Memorial Hospital. Within a year, there was a fire that led the hospital to give the mansion to the Mason family, who then found out the property could not be rezoned.
The Masons then sold it to the local chamber of commerce and, after extensive renovations, the chamber gifted the building to Laurentian in 1969.
“They gave this building for one symbolic dollar to the university, and the university signed an agreement that it would become an art gallery,” said Dieter Buse, also with the Sudbury Arts Council.
“So, it became the art gallery. The name has changed a number of times from being the University Art Gallery to being the Art Gallery of Sudbury, which became independent in 1995-96.”
Arts council members said with Laurentian University’s insolvency, it makes them wonder if they will have any say at all.
“The fear that we have is that it could be sold without any public input,” said Buse.
In response to concerns, Laurentian University released this statement:
“Laurentian University is undertaking a full review of its current real estate portfolio as part of the CCAA process. We understand that our real estate holdings have both cultural and community significance.”
Officials with the arts council said in 1984, the city designated the mansion and grounds as a heritage site.
“Which means that nothing can be done to the structure or the appearance of the building without going through city council,” said Buse.
He hopes the building will be left as is, and continue to be used for the cultural purposes it was designated for.