Q&A – What the new arts centre means for Orléans
City’s portfolio manager talks about the Shenkman Arts Centre
ince its mid-June launch, the Shenkman Arts Centre has joined a growing network of area development, aiming to bolster east-end arts and the local economy with a month’s operations already under their belt. Caroline Obeid, the City of Ottawa’s portfolio manager for Shenkman, sat down with the Star to talk about the new facility’s inner workings and what’s in store for the future. Star: With the centre’s June 18-21 opening weekend a huge milestone, what were your impressions of the experience and how it met – or exceeded – expectations? Obeid: It definitely exceeded our expectations. We were really strategic in how, from the Thursday to the Sunday, we were able to showcase the entire building in really different ways, so all kinds of audiences could get access into the building. We believe there were about 10,000 people who came through the doors over those four days, which for us was so exciting, and we engaged about 1,000 artists, showcasing their work. Star: How does Shenkman’s private-public partnership work, and why is the building named after the Shenkman family? Obeid: The city didn’t have the capital to do this at this time, on their own. So they reached out to a private developer, who’s interested in not only the art centre, but the entire Town Centre lands. They won the bid with the city, so we went into a partnership with them. The building is essentially owned by them for the next 30 years, but we’re leasing the building – the city is operating the building. The whole Shenkman piece is that we asked Arts Ottawa East to take the leadership in fundraising for the city, and that’s what the ARTicipate campaign is. The first donation they received was in the fall of 2007, and it was from the Shenkman Family Foundation for $1 million, and that was for the naming rights for the centre. Star: What does the endowment fund mean for Shenkman, and how will that money be channelled back into the centre, as well as benefit residents
Sand artists? Obeid: It’s from corporate donations, from individual donations. It’s basically being put in a high-interest savings account at the city, and annually the money, the interest comes out and it will go towards programming for the centre. It’s a permanent savings opportunity for the centre. Some of the funds will be funnelled towards the arts partners that exist at the centre … for them to continue doing programming, and further develop collaborations with the community. But also a portion of those funds annually will be funnelled towards the community arts groups and artists to spark new creation at the centre. Star: Looking ahead, what are residents going to see at the centre in coming months? Obeid: Right now, we have a multitude of summer camps that are going on, so the building’s quite alive over the summer. We moved in really fast and furious … so right now we’re taking a step back and going,‘Okay, what really works, and what needs some tweaking?’ so that we can deliver our fall season with the best customer service possible, and with the most exciting programming available. We have a full programming roster,with front and centre programming,including Aaron Lines, Lee Harvey Osmond and Tom Wilson. Basically lots of musicians that are very well-known who are coming to the arts centre. Star: For residents looking to stay on top of all these different events and programs, what’s the best way to keep informed? Obeid: We’re open 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. People can basically come in, take a self-guided tour … visit the arts partners, visit the exhibition spaces, take a look at the public art collection. There’s also guest services, which is a central point for them to get all that information. Star: What about spaces available for rental by the public within Shenkman? Obeid: There are many spaces to rent at the centre. We have a music and dance rehearsal hall; what’s great about Shenkman is that everything’s been purpose-built. It’s ready for use. You’ve got the upper and lower lobbies for receptions, you’ve got Harold Shenkman Hall, which is our 505-seat theatre; you’ve got the Black Box, which is our flexible, 100-seat theatre. There’s a new media centre and people can even rent outside, like the Agora space. The arts partners also have many studio and arts spaces to rent.A good place to start is on the website, and then they can call
our bookings coordinator. Star: With so much discussion on how the centre will impact the arts, what’s your response to people who only think Shenkman will serve a niche market? Obeid: There’s never been something like this developed in this end of town. This is a focal point for the arts, but there’s lots of different ways to get involved. If you want some volunteering opportunities, or you need to put in co-op time or you’re interested in the technical aspects of backstage. And there’s lots of ways to rent the space that aren’t artistic-focused. It is art-focused, but it’s for everyone. We’re hoping it’s a gathering place for people. There’s lots of benefits that are going to come from this arts centre being here.
The Shenkman Arts Centre on Centrum Boulevard is open, so now what? Caroline Obeid, the centre’s portfolio manager, explains what’s in store.