Proposed North End Arts Centre on hold after funding freeze

A key project identified by North End community residents is on hold after funding freezes from the province.

Co-ordinator for project laid off after funding through Neighbourhoods Alive frozen

The New West Hotel after being repainted during the Wall-to-Wall mural festival in 2017, sponsored in part by the North End Community Renewal Corporation. The NECRC has also been working toward establishing a North End Arts and Culture Centre, but that project is in jeopardy after expected funding from the province did not come through. (NECRC/Noelle Madison)

A project identified as a key priority by residents in Winnipeg's North End is on hold after funding freezes from the province.

The proposed North End Arts and Culture Centre will have to be "more creative" in finding support after expected funding did not come through in 2017, said Andrew Sannie, recreation and wellness co-ordinator with the North End Community Renewal Corporation.

That resulted in the layoff of the person driving the arts centre project.

"He … lost his position due to [a funding freeze] from the provincial government through the Neighbourhoods Alive program," Sannie said.

The province froze Neighbourhoods Alive's funding in 2017 at 2016 levels. The program was launched by the NDP government in 2000 as a long-term social and economic strategy to support community-driven revitalization, targeting older neighbourhoods across Manitoba.

Several community groups protested the funding freeze, and some laid off staff.

"Something that would probably be funded in the past isn't too high on the list right now," said Sannie.

A spokesperson for Minister of Municipal Relations Jeff Wharton said while Neighbourhoods Alive saw a funding freeze, core funding for the North End Renewal Corporation has not changed.

"The North End Renewal Corporation receives two times more provincial funding than any other neighbourhood renewal corporation in Manitoba," the spokesperson said. 

Key priority

The arts centre was identified as a key priority during community consultations for the current North End Community Development Plan, and the NECRC was in the process of creating a five-year plan for the centre, said Sannie.

"There was a desire from the community to see some sort of cultural centre, to bring together all the different aspects of arts and culture … to the community that isn't really present in the sense that they were looking for, where professional artists could enact their craft in the area."

The NECRC started working with different community groups to put its plan into action, said Sannie, including Manitoba Music, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Graffiti Art Programing and more, and then hired a co-ordinator to help champion and pull together the project.

That co-ordinator lost his job in November, said Sannie.

"Realistically, it's going to be difficult to go forward. But in saying that, we've sort of been mandated by our community to put up this cultural centre.

"It's not exactly dead in the water, we've just got to find a new way to operate … there's still the dreams and desires from the people in the community."

While the NECRC is uncertain exactly where the centre would go, it would likely be located in the Dufferin neighbourhood and would include flexible space to fill gaps in arts and cultural programming in the area.

"The hope is that it would not duplicate programming already in the North End," said Sannie. "The centre will a hub for arts and arts organizations, all creating together. The space will include creation, teaching, recording and performance space, and exhibition space."

Mural program to keep going

For the past two years, the NECRC has also been working with several groups to put up large-scale outdoor murals in an effort to make the area more inviting, said Sannie.

"We've put up some of the city's biggest murals so far, and we plan to do even more," said Sannie.

That project, in conjunction with the Wall-to-Wall Mural Festival, will continue for at least one more year.

"This is kind of all supposed to be running together, this creation of the arts centre and these murals going up, to really build an art identity."

The ultimate goal is to create an arts and culture destination that will encourage Winnipeggers and tourists to visit the area, said Sannie.

In Winnipeg, giant, colourful murals are changing the face of a troubled neighbourhood, which has seen its share of crime, drugs and alcohol. 2:02

About the Author

Elisha Dacey

Journalist

Elisha Dacey is a journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is the former managing editor of Metro Winnipeg and her work has been seen in newspapers from coast to coast. Reach her at elisha.dacey@cbc.ca.