Recently, it has come to my attention that the proposed Arts and Culture Centre has been under severe scrutiny by some political candidates for its location and for the costs associated with running the facility. It is worthwhile to correct these impressions before the expressed opinions go any further.
The creation and location of the Arts and Culture Centre were carefully considered: the Culturescape report (2011) indicated very clearly that there was a serious need for a focal point for the Arts in Cornwall. As we all know, over the years our city has suffered from the ‘bust or boom’ syndrome. At one point, the downtown was beginning to look somewhat desolate. The choice of location was important for several reasons. By being situated essentially at the corner of Pitt and Second, the Centre can be easily reached through public transit and the parking facilities on the inner core of the block are also an asset. This is important as the Centre will be a facility that will host activities and performances for all members of our community. In addition, the restaurants and other businesses in the Pitt and Second area will benefit handsomely from the presence of the Centre and the pedestrian traffic that it will be generated. The summer Arts Walks are proof of this. An Arts and Culture Centre is a benefit to the area in which it is located. One only need look at Stratford ON and Niagara-on-the-Lake ON to see how those communities have thrived thanks to the presence of their arts facilities – not only the businesses but also the community members whose income is peripheral to the arts season.
The nature of an Arts and Culture Centre has many benefits: for mental health, for the development of social skills, for appreciation of artistic skills, and for the simple pleasure of being able to appreciate the talents that will be displayed as well as the skills that will be honed through the seminars and workshops that will be offered. We must remember that Cornwall has healthy sports programming, sports facilities and parks; however, not all of our citizens are sports-minded or able to participate in sports. An Arts and Culture Centre will provide an alternative venue for those whose interests veer away from sports.
Last but certainly not least, it would be wise, on the part of those who criticize the annual cost of having such a Centre, to take a look at the annual subsidy from the city for each of the following: the Benson Centre, the Civic Complex and the Aquatic Centre. These facilities do not run on air alone; the citizens of Cornwall provide very handsome subsidies to keep their doors open so that their activities and programs can be enjoyed at a reasonable price. It is worth noting that they are for the most part sports-oriented facilities. The estimated cost of running the Arts and Culture Centre is well below any of these other city-run facilities.
The Arts and Culture Centre Fundraising Committee set a community fundraising goal of $1M. To date, roughly $1,130,000 has been raised – 13% over the original goal and a clear indication that the Cornwall community is solidly behind this project, both in commitment and in cost. While the Arts and Culture Centre will be located at the centre of downtown Cornwall, it will serve the communities of the area as we reach out to the various cultural groups in our area whether they be from Akwesasne or other area communities, or from any of the various cultural groups that would be pleased to offer us another perspective on art, music, dance or literary pursuits.
We will all benefit from this Centre – and I think the critics will be gently surprised when they walk through the doors for the first time and realize what an asset this addition to our community will be.
Chair – Arts and Culture Community Fundraising Committee.