Consultant looking at cultural hub, arts strategy downtown
What isn’t on the table is a $50 million or $70 million performing arts multiplex. — Sean Farrell
The City of Prince George and the Community Arts Council have joined forces on a search for ways to enhance the presence of the arts in the city’s downtown.
The two are about to hire a consultant to work on a pair of projects – a 10-year downtown arts strategy and a feasibility study for turning the CAC’s future home into a cultural hub.
It amounts to a happy convergence in CAC executive director Sean Farrell’s opinion.
“It was like, low and behold, these two projects are starting around the same time,” Farrell said Wednesday. “It would make sense for government and business, or us, to be efficient and lean and work together so that we’re avoiding overlap... so we decided to kind of collaborate.
“We’re not merging these two projects,” he added. “We’re working together really closely on them and we’re going to be working with the same consultancy team on both projects.”
Arts carries an under-appreciated but significant economic wallop to the tune of $7 billion a year in B.C., according to Farrell.
“It’s not an off-the-side-of-your-desk recreational thing some people play in,” he said. “It’s actually a big industry.”
Converting that activity into an economic benefit to the city is the focus of the strategy.
“So looking at how we can do cultural place-making downtown, create spaces for artists to work, to engage, consume, purchase art, possibly a new performing space downtown or a concert hall – these are all the questions that we’re going to look at through our feasibility study and through the downtown arts strategy.”
In April 2018, it was announced that the CAC will be moving into the old BMO building at the corner of Third and Quebec once an expansion has been completed. The Farmers’ Market, which moved in that same month, is to remain at the location.
Farrell said a capital investment analysis has been completed and the feasibility study will look at how to finance the project as well as the engineering and procurement.
“All the technical details, so we have a plan to move forward,” he said.
The arrangement was unveiled during Monday night’s city council meeting. At the same meeting, council also voted in favour of establishing a grant and reserve fund for a performing arts centre. In all, $83,900 will go into the reserve, with $7,000 coming from the recently-dissolved Prince George Regional Performing Arts Centre Society and $76,900 coming from a one-time contribution Initiatives Prince George, also no longer operating, had made to the cause.
The money is be used for work towards the creation of a performing arts centre, but Farrell said any such facility will be on a much smaller scale than had been envisioned in previous years.
“What isn’t on the table is a $50 million or $70 million performing arts multiplex, which is what the performing arts centre was sort of prescribed as years ago,” he said. “What we need to focus on, with our new facility and a downtown arts strategy is market development. Let’s creating a marketplace, an economy for local arts and culture.”
The plan is to have a consultant hired by the middle of next month and to have the work completed in about a year.