The Juan de Fuca Performing Arts Centre Society says it’s make or break time for their long-term plans for a West Shore arts centre.
Society representatives pitched a memorandum of understanding to council, which they hope would expedite the process of securing funding for the project, which the society has been working on since a development study was produced in 2013. The idea is to have a 350-seat theatre on the West Shore for community groups to book out for performances.
“We have worked incredibly hard to bring the project to a point where it can move forward quickly, but we need support from the city and soon, because we’re seeing opportunities slip,” Judith Cullington, president of the Juan de Fuca Arts Society, said at the Oct. 25 council meeting. “The community wants this, the community needs this, but we cannot take it further forward without you.”
Ideally, the society hopes the MOU includes a statement of support from council to back the project moving forward. Cullington also voiced hope that the city would be able to contribute some funding, estimating the project cost at more than $30 million, with the society looking to raise a third of that through grants and donations.
But the society can’t start applying for provincial and federal grants without securing a lease for the space, Cullington said. Conversations about a lease are happening, and called on members of the public to donate to the society.
One option is go to the Capital Regional District’s arts commission for funding, she said, but that funding is only open to member municipalities, which Colwood currently is not.
Mayor Rob Martin said the CRD would be coming to ask council at one point to join the committee. If council approves that, they would be allowed to go to other municipalities for funding arts projects. Currently, Martin said nine of 13 CRD municipalities are members of the committee.
Last month, Martin pushed back against a move by the CRD to change the approval process for new members, making it so municipalities would automatically opt in unless more than 10 per cent of CRD voters wrote in to oppose the move.
“If every resident of Colwood wrote expressing opposition they still would not make up that 10 per cent,” city communications manager Sandra Russell explained in an email.
The city must still decide whether to fund this and similar projects directly, or provide funding to a regional committee that would forward that on, Russell said. The city does have reserve funds it could use to help fund the project, she added.
Coun. Dean Jantzen asked about the potential to combine with Langford’s proposed arts centre, which their council has been working on for a few years.
But Cullington said Langford’s planned space would be bigger and tailored to more high-profile performances, while Colwood’s would allow smaller, community arts groups to perform. Ideally, she said, the two would compliment each other.
“I think people worry all of a sudden we’re talking about two theatres on the West Shore,” she said. “But we don’t have just one hockey arena.”
City administration said they had been working closely with the society on an MOU that would be presented to council within 30 days.