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What would an arts centre look like in Iqaluit? Arts group plans to find out

Iqaluit is getting closer to having its own performing arts centre — a goal the Qaggiavuut organization has been working toward for 10 years. 

Organization is holding an open house to gather ideas Thursday and Friday

Qaggiavuut has been working toward building a performing arts centre in Iqaluit for the last 10 years. Pictured is a sketch of what it could look like. (Qaggiavuut)

Iqaluit is getting closer to having its own performing arts centre — a goal Qaggiavuut has been working toward for 10 years. 

Qaggiavuut, the non-profit organization that runs the Qaggiq School of Performing Arts and advocates for an arts and culture hub, is asking Iqalummiut this week what they want in an arts centre. 

It has hired consultants from Savira Cultural and Capital Projects in Toronto to help with a five-month feasibility study. 

On Thursday and Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., anyone is welcome to meet with the group at house 411 to share their ideas. 

Rhoda Ungalaq, the board's chairperson, says people's ideas will be recorded on video and incorporated into the planning. 

"I want it to be some sort of an Inuit performing arts place, where our songs come out and Inuktitut songs and plays, where it came from Inuit," Ungalaq said. 

Iqaluit is the only Canadian capital without a performing arts centre. Ungalaq says performers often get forgotten, but they play a vital role in keeping language and culture alive. 

Rhoda Ungalaq, Qaggiavuut's chairperson, says a performing arts centre would help support Inuit culture and languages and be an economic benefit for the city. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Last year, Qaggiavuut completed a business plan that laid out what they're dreaming of. 

It includes a 350-seat theatre, room for rehearsals, a café with a teaching kitchen, office space, and dormitories for artists to stay while in town. 

But Ungalaq says the space could include more. Qaggiavuut wants the arts and culture hub to cater to as many community needs as possible. 

Some ideas they're considering include a youth centre, a sewing room for women, a market space for visual artists as well as hunters to sell what they catch. 

The organization has funds from the federal government to cover the feasibility study, but is still looking for partners and investors. 

So far it has collected around $500,000 from individuals who've donated, but the business plan estimated it would cost $60 million to build what Ungalaq called the "Cadillac" of arts centres.

Where will it be?

The consultants will determine if the $60 million is an accurate estimate, they'll also look at two less expensive centres and possible locations. 

Included in the plans for behind the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation's new hotel are drawings for an arts centre. Ungalaq says Qaggiavuut was never consulted but is open to talking to the corporation.

Ellen Hamilton, the Qaggiavuut's executive director, says it's hoping to meet with potential partners like the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (QC), Inuit organizations and the territorial government during the consultations run by Savira. 

"Qaggiavuut has been around for 10 years advocating for a performing arts hub, holding consultations all the time, and this week we're inviting QC and anyone else to come and meet with us," Hamilton said. 

If another organization steps up to partner with Qaggiavuut, then the study will also look at how the centre could be jointly managed. 

The feasibility study will be completed in December, and Hamilton says the goal is to break ground as soon as possible.

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