TheMu­seum seeks arts com­mu­nity’s in­put

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - MAR­TIN DE GROOT Mar­tin de Groot writes about lo­cal arts and cul­ture each Satur­day. You can reach him by email at mdg131@gmail.com.

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.

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