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‘No decision has been made to sell any artwork,’ Laurentian University says

University does, however, confirm that Laurentian has expressed a possible intention of selling the Art Gallery of Sudbury’s home, the Bell Mansion
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The Bell Mansion is the Art Gallery of Sudbury’s home.

Laurentian University says that “no decision has been made to sell any artwork” as it prepares a plan to settle up with its creditors.

The university, which declared insolvency on Feb. 1, 2021, has been undergoing restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (or CCAA).

As part of this restructuring, Laurentian made massive cuts to its programs and staff in the spring of 2021. The university plans to move toward a plan of arrangement this month, which will lay out a roadmap for it to pay out its creditors.

Due to the history of the relationship between the Art Gallery of Sudbury and Laurentian, assets associated with the gallery have been caught up in the CCAA process.

In an April 13 report, Ernst & Young, the court-appointed monitors of Laurentian’s insolvency, said LU “intends on selling the Bell Mansion, and may include it, or the proceeds of the sale, in the plan it will be presenting to the creditors.”

Ernst & Young also mentions the gallery’s art collection in the report. “The monitor also understands that LU is considering all of its options with respect to the assets of the art collection,” the report said.

The Art Gallery of Sudbury, as well as the family of an artist who donated some of his works to the gallery, have expressed concern about the situation.

But in a written statement, Laurentian said that “the Bell Mansion building is the only asset the university has expressed the possible intention to sell. No decision has been made to sell any artwork.

“We are proud of the Laurentian University Art Collection, and are grateful custodians of artwork that has been donated to the university and purchased by the university over the past 60 years …”

The Art Gallery of Sudbury submitted a claim of $6.4 million through the CCAA proceedings on July 30 for a number of assets.

Those assets include the Bell Mansion and its grounds, funds bequeathed to support the gallery, and the art collection and library.

Ernst & Young denied AGS’ claim this winter.

AGS now says it submitted the claim in error, and wishes to withdraw the claim.

A hearing was originally supposed to take place May 2 to deal with the gallery’s request to withdraw its claim against LU, although the matter was adjourned, and a new hearing date has not yet been provided.

In its April 13 report, Ernst & Young provides evidence that LU owns the gallery’s assets. 

However, Art Gallery of Sudbury director/curator Demetra Christakos told Sudbury.com last week she believes these assets are actually the property of a separate entity, the Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre (or LUMAC).

LUMAC is the predecessor of the Art Gallery of Sudbury.

In its written statement, the university said “Laurentian University has always owned these assets and has made them available to the Art Gallery of Sudbury for display, consistent with the university’s desire that they be accessible to, and enjoyed by the public.”

The statement added that LU looks “forward to an appropriate resolution with the Art Gallery of Sudbury, or a determination of the Art Gallery’s claim, in order to resolve any uncertainty.”

Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.