Manitoba

Brandon hopes to build downtown cultural hub including library, museum, art gallery

If approved, an application for a $5 million provincial grant will create a home for the Western Manitoba Regional Library, Brandon General Museum and Archives under one roof. If funding is successful the grant would cover 50 per cent of the 10 million dollar project. 

Provincial grant request would cover 50 per cent of $10 million proposed project

Cars drive past a building.
The cultural hub in Brandon is proposed to be located at 710 Rosser Ave. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Manitoba's second-largest city is hoping a potential $5 million provincial grant will help create a cultural hub in its downtown core.

The City of Brandon has applied for the Arts, Culture, and Sport in Community Fund to create a home for the Western Manitoba Regional Library, Brandon General Museum and Archives and the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba by renovating the city's Library/Arts Building.

The goal of the project is to unite the three organizations under one roof, said Dean Hammond, general manager of corporate services with the City of Brandon.

"It would be a place for people to ... enjoy all three of those amenities under one roof," Hammond said. "I mean, the library, the museum and gallery are all three separately-run entities ... two of those three are in a city building right now."

The project emerged out of concerns the library was potentially moving out of the downtown, Hammond said. City Council wanted to ensure the library stayed where people are.

"Through those discussions and with both with the library and the art gallery, you know then we came to a point  ... we're going to keep you downtown and turn this building into something really special," Hammond said.

A conceptual design study has been completed, and if the project proceeds a detailed design will be created in 2023. Following a tender, construction would potentially begin in 2024.

Moving forward will depend on if the grant is awarded. If funding is successful, the grant would cover 50 per cent of the $10 million project. If funding is not secured, city council will decide if the project will move forward with the city covering all costs.

A man with long hair and a beard stands in front of a colourful wall.
Brandon’s downtown library branch supervisor Carson Rogers says the project would make the location into a destination. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Carson Rogers, Brandon's downtown library branch supervisor, hopes the project gets the public excited to come downtown while expanding the usership of all three partners.

"If people are travelling through or coming into Brandon and they're looking for cultural events, this is the space that we can promote as a place to come," Rogers said. 

The library became involved with the proposed cultural hub through the need to upgrade its current facilities. This led to talks with the city and other partners in the project.

"This is going to make it easier for those people to access it all in the same day ... it's also going to make this location, this building in downtown Brandon, a destination for people." 

Currently, the art gallery and library are in the same building but have different points of access. The proposed renovation will provide access directly from Rosser Avenue.

"This is a really big investment in all three of these organizations. It's also a really big investment in the downtown core of our city," Rogers said.

"It's just a great investment in the community as a whole because if this project goes through ... the community is going to expand and improve."

Partners eager to join forces

Doug Derksen, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba board member, says the cultural hub taps into the great potential of Brandon's downtown.

When looking at other cities, galleries, theatres and other activities draw people downtown, Derksen said. Something similar is needed in downtown Brandon.

He thinks the hub could be a solution.

 "I think it's really important that people in Brandon identify the gallery, the library, the museum ... and sort of create a sense of pride of place that bigger places like Winnipeg or other places have."

A man with white hair and a goatee stands surrounded by colourful fabric.
Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba board member Doug Derksen believes it's important to have a sense of pride in the city, and the cultural hub would bolster that. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

At one time the town centre, the current location of the gallery and library, was a thriving hub for the community. He says, this has changed over the years as the downtown has slowly lost its sense of vibrancy.

Things are changing, he says, new businesses are opening showing the potential of downtown but more support is needed.

The hub can provide a vibrant sense of culture and build on the momentum of revitalizing downtown, he said.

"If you go to another city as a tourist, you don't go to the suburbs, you go to the downtown ... so it would be nice for Brandon to create that."

A man stands smiling and holding a tea cup.
Brandon General Museum and Archives museum Archive museum administrator Keith Waterfield encourages Brandonites to explore the downtown. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Brandon General Museum and Archives museum administrator Keith Waterfield says part of the challenge of creating the cultural hub will be inspiring Brandonites to reimagine the downtown as the place to be as a community.

"You know, people are afraid to come downtown and Brandon is very much a car city, and I think people just sort of just drive through downtown," Waterfield said.

"I think if you … were to park your car and walk around downtown and walk the perimeter you would get a different opinion."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with chelsea.kemp@cbc.ca.

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