TheMuseum seeks arts community’s input
About a month ago, I wrote about a series of public consultations organized by TheMuseum at King and Queen in downtown Kitchener. The aim is to gather input to help shape plans for an expansion program announced in the spring, which could potentially double the size of the facility.
A special session geared toward the arts was part of the picture, but the date hadn’t been set yet. The time is now near at hand:
All members of this region’s arts and culture community are invited to be part of a cultural forum at TheMuseum this coming Wednesday, Nov. 14, starting at 6 p.m.
I’ll be there as moderator, along with a distinguished panel of arts practitioners: Gordon Hatt, executive director, CAFKA; Pam Patel, artistic director, MT Space; Terre Chartrand, artistic director, Pins and Needles Fabric Company; and Tessa Jennison, director of Waterloo Region Crossing.
If you’re involved with arts, culture and heritage in Waterloo region, please come. And if there are others within your circles who should be there, please invite them.
TheMuseum, originally the Waterloo Region Children’s Museum, opened in the former Goudies department store 15 years ago this fall. David Marskell joined the organization as CEO three years later. Just last week his contributions to our community were recognized with him receiving a Senate of Canada 150+ Commemorative Medal.
The designation “TheMuseum at King and Queen” is idiosyncratic. For me, it hearkens back more than 20 years, to the “Kilometre of Culture” concept centred
around the city’s royal intersection as stipulated in recommendation #13 of Kitchener’s first Culture Plan (by coincidence, recommendation #14 called for the establishment of a children’s museum).
The address is actually 10 King St. W, which is near, but not quite at the crossroads. In May, it was announced that TheMuseum had made an intent to purchase agreement with BMO Bank of Montreal for the building next door — 2 King St. W., which does stand at the very corner.
The sale will be at a fair price. The bank has also pledged a $1 million donation. The intent, as Julie Barker-Mertz, senior vice president at BMO explained at the project launch, is “to help transform downtown Kitchener’s cultural connection to the community and be a catalyst for renewal of arts and culture in the heart of the city.”
These remarks show that the meeting on Wednesday is not just another stop in an ongoing road show, but a discussion that is integral to the expansion project as a whole. Without collaboration from the arts community, it couldn’t proceed as currently conceived.
Despite that, Marskell has let it be known that he is open to the idea of setting aside the immediate needs of TheMuseum at the meeting next week to make room for a broader dialogue on supporting and nurturing a vibrant cultural community.
Such a discussion is certainly needed. Cultural development in this region has been in limbo for the three years that have passed since the abrupt end of a five-year false start for an initiative that had taken an additional seven years to get off the ground.
Voices from the arts community have been in agreement, however, that the focus of the stakeholder session should remain The Museum expansion.
To begin with, the call for engagement from the cultural sector sets a valuable precedent. I can’t think of another instance of a major cultural institution reaching out to the regional arts community with a sincere request for input and guidance.
Reciprocally, this is an opportunity for the wider arts community to show how valuable its involvement can be in this project.
Working together to make something great happen at and near 2-10 King St. W., which enhances everything within the radius of a kilometre or so, could also prove to be an ideal way to move forward, beyond all the bad luck and trouble that has plagued us for so long.