British Columbia

Match made in heaven? Victoria arts groups turning to churches as venues

“We have our congregations, our membership, we are service organizations to our community, we are mission-based organizations operating on a not-for-profit basis,” said Pacific Opera Victoria's CEO, on why churches and arts groups often work well together.

Arts columnist says renting to arts groups a win-win for churches and artists

Pacific Opera Victoria now calls the Baumann Centre home, a building owned by the Anglican Diocese. The POV funded a large-scale refurbishing of the building to meet their needs. (Derek Ford)

All Points West arts columnist Amanda Farrell-Low says arts groups in Victoria and other cities are increasingly seeking sanctuary.

By that, she means they are using churches as venues for their work, which is often a win-win for the artists and the church.

"Faith-based organizations often own prime real estate that they are hoping to keep occupied, or generate a bit of revenue from, in the wake of congregations changing," she told All Points West guest host David Lennam. "And renting to a non-profit arts group provides not only a tax break, but an opportunity to support a creative organization."

She says local examples include the Canadian College of Performing Arts' use of St. Mary's Church in Oak Bay, and Pacific Opera Victoria's use of a building owned by the Anglican Diocese and operated by St. John the Divine for their offices and a performance space.

Loss of spaces would be 'crippling'

Pacific Opera Victoria CEO Ian Rye says arts organizations and faith-based organizations actually have more in common than one might think.

"We have our congregations, our membership, we are service organizations to our community, we are mission-based organizations operating on a not-for-profit basis," he said. "So I do think this is an important trend around North America, … these are excellent partners."

Paul Destrooper, artistic director of Ballet Victoria, agreed.

They use St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church and he says having a shared space agreement can take some getting used to, especially because congregations have a strong sense of ownership over their facility.

"There's a couple of organists there, so they're always practising, rehearsing," he said. "So it's a bit like living with the Phantom of the Opera: that organ is going all day, every day."

Destrooper says the loss of a church space would be "crippling" for the ballet, and would keep them out of Downtown Victoria and have a serious impact on their bottom line.

"We would have to be somewhere in a barn. Or an industrial area," he said.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Match made in heaven? Victoria arts groups turning to churches as venues