A proposed public art gallery is now close to being approved after months of delays due to City of Powell River staff not making it “a priority item,” said councillor CaroleAnn Leishman.
“There’s been delays as far as staff goes,” said Leishman, who holds the city portfolio for arts, culture and heritage. “It hasn’t been seen as a priority. It is a priority for council and a priority for the arts community.”
The proposed Powell River Art Centre, to be located in a space above the new Powell River Public Library, was presented by Powell River Council for Arts and Culture (PRCAC) to the city’s committee of the whole on February 14. City staff was directed to prepare an options report for the public gallery last June and was further directed to work with the arts council last July.
PRCAC is a group that represents the local arts community, supporting programs, projects, festivals and organizations through municipal grants funding and donations of civic space.
PRCAC’s proposal for the arts centre identified space in the city-owned Crossroads Village Shopping Centre building where a pop-up library has been located while the new library is undergoing construction in the space below.
Leishman said she has been frustrated waiting for a city staff report on the public art gallery, which will finally come before council on Thursday, March 2.
The report recommends that a lease for the proposed gallery be offered at a net cost of $38,000 per year, and that council concurrently considers an in-kind grant to the gallery proponents to cover expenses. The report states that the only perceived challenge to locating the proposed PRCAC in the new library building is the loss of potential revenue.
There does not need to be much work done to open a permanent gallery space, according to Leishman. She added that a pop-up space would just need a coat of paint until a formal public gallery was finished.
“We reiterated a direction at the last committee of the whole that council needs to establish that space as the art gallery and move on,” said Leishman.
The second-floor 1,800 square foot space at Alberni Street and Joyce Avenue includes most of what is needed for a public gallery, according to Powell River artist Meghan Hildebrand.
“A good public art gallery has open space that allows viewing distance,” said Hildebrand. “It has a versatile layout that allows for multiple uses from paintings and sculpture exhibits to experience-based installations. It has controlled lighting, easy accessibility, visibility, as well as office and storage space.”
According to Hildebrand, it would also need curatorial, administrative staff and continual funding.
“There is arts funding available,” she said. “Accessing this funding demands experienced professionals.”
PRCAC vice-president Karen Kamon said the arts council has identified grants that would fund the gallery for up to four years.
“It’s appropriate that there be the civic connection to civic property,” said Kamon. “The arts centre meets a need in the community.”
Kamon added that the arts centre would not be in competition with any existing galleries in the community.
Hildebrand said she is concerned that the arts community and city hall are thinking of two different things when discussing a gallery for Powell River.
“Comments that liken the possibilities of the new space to existing art co-ops makes me think that we are talking about something other than a public art gallery,” said Hildebrand. “I welcome any new exhibition space, which there is a serious lack of in Powell River, but I think ‘public art gallery’ means something that is run by professionals, and doesn’t rely on volunteers or the sale of art to exist.”
Hildebrand said creating a dedicated public art gallery is vital in showing that the community values new ideas, and that a career in the arts is worth pursuing.