British Columbia

Society hopes community involvement can help win approval for Kamloops arts centre

An independent society has formed to help rally support for a newly proposed $70 million centre for the arts in downtown Kamloops, B.C. 

Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society wants to attract residents, arts leaders to push for new venue

The main building of the proposed new centre for the arts would provide a home for the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra. (

An independent society has formed to help rally support for a newly proposed $70 million centre for the arts in downtown Kamloops, B.C. 

As a first step, the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society — formed in May — will appear before city council today to introduce itself and outline what it hopes to do in the coming months.

The proposed arts centre was pitched to council in January by Kelson Group founder and philanthropist Ron Fawcett. Performing arts groups such as the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and Western Canada Theatre were involved in the development of the proposal.  

The estimated cost of the project is $20 million less than a similar proposal rejected by Kamloops voters in 2015.

James MacDonald, artistic director of Western Canada Theatre, is a founding member of the new society and believes the new proposal is stronger than the last one due to planned community involvement. 

"It was very important that this is a grassroots society with roots all over the community. So this is a group of community leaders who are essentially getting together to create a new centre for the arts," MacDonald told Shelley Joyce, host of Daybreak Kamloops.

Opportunities for Kamloops residents to become members of the society will be made public over the next month. It will be made up of both arts leaders and members of the Kamloops community, says MacDonald.

Among the society's first goals will be to create a business plan for the building, which will go to council later in the summer, says MacDonald. It will include provincial and federal funding options for cultural infrastructure, as well as private fundraising options and a community consultation plan.

A rendering of the proposed Kamloops Performing Centre of Arts that residents rejected in a 2015 referendum. (City of Kamloops)

3 theatres

The proposal for the multi-building centre featured three theatres.

The main building would house the largest theatre and feature a symphony shell for the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra. The medium-sized theatre would be used for Western Canada Theatre productions.

There will be a smaller theatre space for arts organizations, conferences and gatherings. The proposal also includes public spaces for gallery demonstrations and meetings, says MacDonald. 

The society will be involved in modifying the design to make sure its size is appropriate for the number of people that will use it, he added.

"We want a great concert venue," MacDonald said. 

"We want to get all the great touring acts that are currently bypassing Kamloops and going to Vernon, or they just don't come through. They really have a possibility of coming here if we have a world-class venue."

How is this proposal different from 2015?

MacDonald says the society is focusing on community consultation. 

"I think the messaging on [the project] will be quite different," he said.

The previous referendum focused on asking the community if they wanted to take out a loan, rather than focusing on how the community will benefit from the spaces, says MacDonald.

"Our city is growing so much and is growing so well. There's so many people coming here, there's so much tourism going on and this is such a boost for tourism in our city." 

Listen to the full story here:

The proposal for a multi-million dollar performing arts centre in downtown Kamloops has a new group of boosters. A new society has been formed to help rally support; they'll be appearing before city council on June 18. 6:41

With files by Daybreak Kamloops


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