British Columbia

Prince George creates fund for future arts centre — but there's still no plan for what it'll look like

City council voted unanimously to create a special reserve fund to set money aside for the sole purpose of building a performing arts centre in Prince George, even though there is no clear timeline for when that might happen. 

Local arts council studying feasibility of building a creative hub downtown

Sean Farrell stands in front of the spot where the arts council is hoping to build a creative hub to attract more art and culture into the downtown core of Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

To be or not to be?

That's long been the question for the construction of a performing arts centre in downtown Prince George, B.C.

It's a project that would help support existing community groups, as well as attract a wider range of touring performers to the city, advocates say.

But with an estimated price tag of more than $50 million, funding the project has proven difficult, leading to little progress over the past decade.

On Monday, the central Interior city's council voted unanimously to create a special reserve fund to set money aside for the sole purpose of building the centre, even though there is no clear timeline for when that might happen. 

The fund was established using $76,900 of money the city had already earmarked for the project, as well as $7,000 donated by the Prince George Regional Performing Arts Centre Society. That society, which was established to advocate for the performing arts centre, was dissolved earlier this year.

City council says it's now working closely with the Community Arts Council of Prince George and District.

A conceptual design for a performing arts centre shown in a report to council in 2012 by the Prince George Regional Performing Arts Centre Society. With an estimated price tag of more than $50 million, finding funding for the project has proven difficult.

'Really vibrant creative sector'

Sean Farrell, executive director of the arts council, says the idea of building a standalone performing arts centre is still "open ended," but right now it is working on creating an overall downtown arts strategy in partnership with the city.

The arts council is working on a study that will consider the feasibility of building a new creative hub downtown, which would include spaces for artists, galleries and possibly a concert hall.

"[It's] going to be looking at how do we tap into this really vibrant creative sector here in Prince George and create opportunities for that to happen in the downtown core," he said. 

The proposed funding model for the original $50 million dollar project was to be split three ways, with the city providing roughly $12 million, and the rest coming from provincial and federal grants.

In 2011, the city's proposal for funds was rejected by the federal government.

The new arts strategy would look at building a much smaller performance space than what was envisioned for the original performing arts centre, said Farrell. 

One potential site for a creative hub is on Quebec Street and Third Avenue downtown, which is projected to cost approximately $12 million, he said.

The arts council is in negotiations with Heritage Canada to be a key investor, he added.

Few venues in city

As it stands, there are few appropriate venues for cultural groups in Prince George.

The Prince George Symphony Orchestra, for example, performs in Vanier Hall, an aging auditorium inside a high school.

Meanwhile, Theatre Northwest, the city's professional performing company, is based out of a strip mall alongside a butcher's shop.

"We really do need an appropriate professional concert stage here in the city. What exactly it is and what it needs to be, we're not sure yet," said Farrell. 

Farrell believes the arts can provide a boost to the local economy.

"Our job now is to help develop a marketplace, a real marketplace for consumers of arts and culture and I think that's what we're trying to do right now with our new facility as a creative hub," he said.

"We spend a lot of time talking about attracting professional people to come and live in Prince George and we know that arts and culture is something that people are going to be looking for."

With files from Daybreak North


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