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Save the Saidye

Okay, so it’s not closing. But it is scaling way back. One of the Montreal Jewish Community’s most beloved institutions, the Saidye Bronfman Centre, is cutting its fine arts classes to focus exclusively on theatre and performance:

The school employed 85 artists and had 1,800 students learning painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, calligraphy, printmaking, design, jewellery, ceramics and more.

[ . . . ]

The facilities are state of the art(s). Fletcher cited the Saidye’s printmaking and ceramic studios as among the best in Montreal.

“The school is unique and vital,” he said. “It’s essential that it keep going.”

There’s a web petition circulating on the subject, but it’s unlikely to do much in itself. As with any issue, the real question will come down to dollars and cents. By raising awareness, we might hope to get the big machers interested in the cause. Perhaps someone will step in at the eleventh hour to save these programs that are so unique and important to the community.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Li 01.18.07, 8:11 PM


    Were it that simple! What’s happening is that the theatre is becoming independent (from the YMHA) and needs the space to become a genuine, first rank, Montreal English-language (and Yiddish-language!) theatre. Beyond the Centaur, of course, there is no alternative for the theatre in town. Arguably, there are many other art schools/galleries in Montreal, and art schools/galleries are not constrained by the language or “culture” of their art. In short (very short and perhaps a bit callously!), there is a greater need for a thriving theatre in the community the Saidye Bronfman Centre serves, than for an art school. The art school (and gallery) can be accomodated elsewhere – perhaps even somewhere in the Jewish community “campus”; the theatre cannot.

  • Anonymous 01.20.07, 1:59 AM

    You’re right it’s not that simple…It always depends who you talk to.

    The Saidye isn’t scaling back it’s closing.

    You’re right the theatre has been separated from the Y for some time now. It’s not a “recent” development…

    There are no other arts centres in the greater Montreal area with the facilities like the Saidye Bronfamn Centre. The is no other public photo lab in the city. There is no public stone sculpture studio like the one at The Saidye. There are no public printmaking facilities like the one at the Saidye. I would like the previous poster to name one public centre that has all of the equipment and the facilities that the Saidye has. As far as the need for another Theatre school…well we could debate the need for that one too. The only reason the theatre isn’t closing at the Saidye is because they have secured a wealthy benefactor, because if they had not we would be seeing the Yiddish theatre disappearing too. I am very pleased that they have done so because it would be a shame to lose the Yiddish Theatre as well It is obvious that the previous Poster is biased. The previous poster has either been completely taken in by the propaganda emanating from the people behind the decision to close the School, or is actually one the decision makers trying to diffuse the every growing public opinion that the decision is wrong and should be reversed.

    The Saidye Bronfman Centre is a Community Centre yet the board did not go to the community for solutions nor additional funding.

    Their decision has absolutely no fondation. The Theatre has been losing money for years! I have been told that it had to actually close for some time in the past when things got really bad. The school had been helping support it all those years before the benefactor stepped in and helped to underwrite the debt. The school generates a substancial revenue…and has a student based of well over 1000 students.

    A very expensive study was produced on behalf of the Saidye Bronfman Centre as to what direction the school was to take going forward, and the report included all the existing art fields as well as multi-diciplinary art. The Saidye Bronfman was to have taken a simular model as the Banff School of Fine Arts or some of the American models on which it was based.

    It actually would be smarter for the Theatre to build a new building somewhere else becaus eit could be built to modern specs.

    The previous poster is singing the same song as the board of the Y.

    What Montreal needs is a triving Arts Community where every art form is represented. I would like to also mention that the visual arts play a huge role in the theatre. Who makes the sets and designs the costumes?…

    Sorry but the decision is morally and ethically wrong!

    Sign the petition:


  • Li 01.20.07, 10:32 PM

    In case “Anonymous” – or anyone else – was wondering, I have had a long personal experience with the Saidye’s art school: I’ve used its facilities over the years (I don’t know what “Anonymous” means by “public”, but in my dictionary any art school/centre/studio is “public” in the same way as the Saidye, i.e. you pay your fee/tuition/subscription and you get to use the facilities; the Saidye is not FREE), along with those at several other venues. In fact one of my works was once on exhibit at the Saidye (downstairs) I even taught a class there some years back. Finally, if, as “Anonymous” claims, the theatre is a money-losing endeavour and the school is supporting it financially, why can’t the school move somewhere else and thrive? Her/his argument just makes no sense. The fact is that the school can relocate (surely with all the money it earns that shouldn’t be a problem, right?) and the theatre cannot. I am a visual artist myself and thus have a bias in favour of the school, but it would be dishonest to pretend that logic and need are not on the theatre’s side in this dispute.

  • B 01.21.07, 11:50 PM

    Li keeps referring to the relocation of the school of fine arts and the youth institute in his / her posts. Just to make sure that everyone is clear on this that’s not what they are doing. The decision has been made to close both the School of Fine Arts & The Youth Institute. There has been no public statement to the contrary that I am aware of. There seems to be an unwillingness and a lack of financial will on the part of the people involved at a higher level to look at any other possibility. Both the School and the Youth Institute and the services that they provide to the community will disappear as of March 31, 2007. The gallery will have to find it’s own space without the support of YMHA or The Federation if it is to continue to exist.

    Li’s statement that one art form is more important than any other for a community is misleading and erroneous and echo recent public statements made in the media as to what our community “does best”. I agree the theatre is an integral part of the community and must be protected, however ALL art forms are equally important and must receive the same treatment.

    For 40 years the Art School, the Youth Institute, The Gallery and The Dramatic Arts have shared space at The Saidye. Why can’t it continue to do so? If space for expansion for the Dramatic Arts is at the root of the problem, why then was the YMHA given permission to take away space in the same building that currently houses the Theatre Arts to enlarge its gym facilities?

    I agree none of this makes any sense.

  • Li 01.22.07, 12:27 PM

    My points remain.

    1. The theatre (in English and in Yiddish) is far more important culturally and linguistically to the community that hosts it (Anglophone, Jewish) than the art school. Indeed, it is ESSENTIAL. The art school is culturally and linguistically neutral and can be hosted elsewhere. I’ll put it bluntly: If the theatre disappears it will have serious reprecussions for the Jewish and Anglophone communities in Montreal. The school is nice, but – let’s face it – inessential.

    2. If, as “Anonymous” claims, the art school is so profitable, it should have no problem finding its own premises.

  • B 01.22.07, 12:53 PM

    Li just doesn’t seem to get it does he / she? All art is essential to keep a community alive, not just one particular artform.

    Any loss in arts is a blow to any community. When one art form falls another is sure to follow.

    The school still isn’t going to relocate because there is no will or financial means to do so.

  • Li 01.22.07, 4:01 PM

    Perhaps B is right and lots of things are “essential to keep a community alive”, but disingenuousness and pious nonsense are not among them. There are many arts that the Saidye has ignored – where is its dance or music school? The bottom line is that there is a competition for community money and space and the Saidye Bronfman Centre and the Jewish community trustees RIGHTFULLY deemed the theatre essential to its (ethnic, cultural and linguistic) mission. The difference is this: I would be very happy to see the art school survive, but I would be mortified to see the theatre disappear. The only things more devastating to the community than having the theatre close would be the disappearance of the Y or the library.

  • B 01.23.07, 2:49 AM


    Disingenuousness and pious nonsense?

    I can see that losing something that is important to you would hurt you deeply. I understand your need to be defensive about what you love. However you keep verbally lashing out at people who you perceive to be of a differing viewpoint when in fact we have both agreed with you. You have not been listening. Anonymous and myself have both agreed with you that the theatre is a very important and must be maintained. I cannot speak for anonymous but I do disagree with you that one art form serves the whole community better than another. I am also fully aware that no one on the face of this earth will ever change your mind about this and I am not here to do so. Please be aware that you will not change my views either no matter what words you use to describe me…:)

    What you are not grasping in this dialogue is the fact that we are indeed losing a part of our community, something that is important to some members. This is due to the “competition for money and space” as you so rightly put it. You love the Y, the Library, and the theatre. Good for you. Different people enjoy different aspects of the centre. We have to respect their loss as well as learn to respect each other’s choices, opinions and feelings.

    I have reminded you twice so far that they are not relocating the art school and the youth institute, nor are they replacing any of the services that they are offering right now. You now lash out at me when I simply correct you on your continued erroneous statement that the school will be relocated. Li the school is closing and is not being relocated anywhere on this planet. There is neither money nor the will on the part of the trustees to do so. I would appreciate that you stop providing false hope and misleading information to the other readers.

    By taking such a hard-line stance it appears to others that you are unwilling to acknowledge that the children who rely on The Saidye’s fine art programs will have to find somewhere else to go. Gone is the Summer Fine Arts Camp. There will no longer be fine arts programs for people with special needs. There are outreach programs in place to public schools outside of the Saidye that are now gone as well. This is what you have been saying are not essential for our community since your first post. You must be fully aware that some people will not agree with you. They are losing something that is important to them and their family. We must be respectful of their feelings. The fact that you are unwilling to concede that this too is a tragic loss for the community will put you at odds with a far greater number of people than you may expect. When you take something away from their kids they are going to be a little upset and rightfully so. Saying that a program is not essential is like saying that their kids are not essential. I am absolutely sure that this is not how you truly feel.

    I am also very sure that you will be informing us in your next post that theatre is planning to put together youth programs and other activities to try and fill the gap that the closure will cause. Kudos if the theatre attempts to do so.

    But my dear Li, the theatre is only one part of the many moving experiences that can be found in the enjoyment in the arts. You appear to be searching for flaws in other people’s statements to help bolster your own strongly held views.

    I did say that all art forms are equally important didn’t I? Dance and music are both art forms last time I checked. Imagine the magic if had they been allowed to flourish within our ranks at The Saidye. If the “report” that anonymous mentions had been brought to full fruition we may indeed have seen dance and music as well at The Saidye in the form of multi-disciplinary arts workshops and perhaps a program. We do understand that a decision had to be made and the trustees opted out of the expanded version and want to focus solely on the dramatic arts. It was a beautiful dream while it lasted. It is too bad that no money was found to implement this visionary project and inject a new life into the centre that would include a little something for everyone.

  • Li 01.23.07, 7:48 AM

    “When one art form falls another is sure to follow.”

    For pious nonsense, see above.

    I’m sorry for being blunt about it, but while the closing of the art school is sad (I taught at the Saidye and had my work shown there, so I speak of personal experience), and its fine programs will likely be lost, it is hardly the catastrophe you and others are pretending. There are other good schools around town and plenty of galleries to show work that merits being exhibited. It’s even possible that some of the Saidye’s special art programs might be hosted elsewhere. And that is exactly the point I am making: the Saidye’s art programs are culturally neutral and can (if the will and the funds are found) move. The theatre (English and Yiddish) cannot. It is tied – and is essential – to the Jewish community. In your neo-utopian world that may not be an important consideration, but the trustees of the Saidye, the Y and the Jewish community campus have responsibilities that are anchored in 21st century Montréal, and have to make hard choices based on political, cultural and fiscal realities. No amount of poetic obfuscation can disguise the fact that in any competition (for funds and space)between the art school and the theatre, the latter must prevail.

  • B 01.23.07, 1:49 PM

    Sticks and stones…


    Once again you hurl insults at others to try to make the same point that everyone has agreed upon. Yes my dear Li the theatre is important. We all have said so. And once again I remind everyone including my beloved Li that the School of Fine Arts, The Youth Institute and its programs are not being relocated nor are they going to be hosted anywhere else. Period. Once again Li, I would like you to refrain from making erroneous statements to the contrary. It’s simply not going to happen. There isn’t the will nor the interest on the part of the trustees to do so. They have opted to only support the Theatre.

    I remind everyone that 1800 registrants are left without a school and the children and those with special needs are without their programs. Those are the facts of this situation. No amount of explanations, excuses or sugarcoating of this situation by Li is going to make it go away.

    As Li pointed out we don’t have music or dance at The Saidye, and now we won’t have fine arts either. What will go next when they start slashing the budget again? Li’s beloved theatre perhaps?

    As everyone who lives in the 21st century knows, one of the first things that get slashed is the art programs. History stands as testament. The first steps of any group of individuals that want to seize and control its people are to take over the media and then close the art schools. They will then begin to inform the public what is and isn’t art, and what is and isn’t important. People do eventually see through the propaganda, however often it is too late. It usually comes at a great loss, a loss of its cultural institutions as well as its artists. Occasionally the community attempts to rebuild what they once had but it is never the same because it’s artists have moved on.

    The Saidye is not only losing its School but is also losing a community of artists, which is a great loss. I am sure that Li will gleefully point out that they can move on elsewhere, and I am sure that they will because our artists are resilient people. Where you find artists and all art forms you find a healthy and vibrant community.

    Li makes an excellent point that our leaders have responsibilities that are anchored in 21st century Montreal and that they have had some difficult choices to make. I agree that they made their choices based on cultural and fiscal realities and for political reasons.

    It still remains a shame that they opted out of supporting such an extraordinary vision of the future of our community in Montreal.

  • Li 01.23.07, 2:57 PM

    Sticks and stones, eh? Ok, let’s see…

    1) “… the School of Fine Arts, The Youth Institute and its programs are not being relocated nor are they going to be hosted anywhere else. Period. Once again Li, I would like you to refrain from making erroneous statements to the contrary.”

    A patent lie. Kindly quote my words saying that these ARE being relocated (as opposed to the fact that while the art school CAN be relocated the theatre cannot).

    2) “No amount of explanations, excuses or sugarcoating of this situation by Li is going to make it go away.”

    Huh? I’m the one being blunt and realistic; you’re the one spreading the sugar with such pious nonsense as “beautiful dream”, “visionary project” and “a little something for everyone”! Sorry B, but beautiful dreams cost money. Raise some and realize them yourself.

    3) “The first steps of any group of individuals that want to seize and control its people are to take over the media and then close the art schools.”

    Holy cow! So this is what it’s really about, eh, a totalitarian coup? Hmm, yes, yes, if I listen carefully, I can hear the jackboots. And in the heart of the Jewish community, yet!

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