Arts community opposes chamber plan
Combined performing arts centre, convention facility unrealistic, says Allied Arts Council
Representatives of the city’s arts community have rejected a suggestion to combine the longawaited performing arts theatre with a trade and convention facility.
The Allied Arts Council, city officials and members of Lethbridge’s arts groups have been working together on plans for modern facilities since the year 2000, says AAC president Amanda Berg.
Over that period, their collaboration has resulted in construction of the Casa arts instructional building and an expansion of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.
“There have been many conversations, stakeholder consultations and feasibility studies completed,” she points out. “There has not been a rush to a solution with these projects.”
Unfortunately, Berg says, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce “did not consult in a meaningful manner” with the arts council or the grassroots Performing Arts Centre Advocacy Group before taking its multi-purpose building idea to city council.
“If they had, they would perhaps have had a better understanding of the complexities of the type of civic performance space needed by our community,” she says.
As well, Berg says, it doesn’t comprehend the challenges raised by the suggestion that the University of Lethbridge’s major art collection could be relocated for display at a convention centre.
The arts council also disagrees with suggestions the city could save money by having a multi-tasking staff operate a combined facility. That “demonstrates a lack of understanding and appreciation for the complexity of operating performing arts centres and world-class art galleries,” it says.
“The notion of a single staff is simplistic,” given the number of specialized tasks involved in operating the different facilities.
Lethbridge audiences need a welldesigned theatre to attract performers to the city, the council says, and local performance groups deserve “an appropriate facility to create and share their work.”
“Sacrificing space and design in this proposed multiplex facility to save money is ill considered, unrealistic and not a long-term solution for the community.”
In its presentation to council, Berg notes, the chamber asked that its proposal “remain foremost in the minds of city council” as it debates new Capital Improvement Program projects for coming years.
“The AAC also requests you to keep foremost in your minds the strong community support and engagement, extensive work and studies completed over the last 17 years as arts facility shortcomings have been systematically addressed.”
City council is continuing its capital plan deliberations through the week.
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