The campaign to get an elevator for the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery is in its final push.
Just before Christmas, the Ladysmith Arts Council (LAC)learned its request for a federal grant had been successful, bringing its dream of making the gallery accessible much closer to reality.
LAC president Kathy Holmes received a phone call from the federal government on Dec. 23 regarding the arts council’s grant application. She wasn’t in the office, so she had to phone back, and she remembers that when she dialed the number, in her mind, she could hear them telling her their application had been rejected.
Instead of bad news, Holmes heard the most welcome words: “you’ve been accepted.”
“Gail [Ralphs, the gallery curator] and I were here, and we burst into tears,” said Holmes. “It’s been three and a half or four years we’ve been fundraising and applying for grants. It was the best Christmas present ever.”
The LAC will be receiving $40,500 in Enabling Accessibility funding from the federal government, and Holmes says this will bring the arts council to the point where it is only about $20,000 shy of its fundraising goal.
“The whole project is probably going to cost $75,000 to $85,000, but it’s like any other renovation project, the domino effect,” she said. “We’ll need a new door that’s wheelchair-accessible and a new wheelchair-accessible washroom.”
Holmes says the LAC is now in the process of contacting contractors and their architect to get their final plans, and they need to work with the Town of Ladysmith to get licences and approvals.
“We really appreciate the Town giving us this space,” said Holmes. “We don’t want to change the integrity of the building. It has to be done with a lot of integrity and class because we are an art gallery, and last year, we had 6,000 people come here, and next year, we might have 7,000, and down the road 20,000. This gallery has a really good reputation.”
The LAC still needs to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of the elevator, and Holmes says they are always fundraising.
There is a “donate now” button on the LAC website at www.ladysmithwaterfrontgallery.com, which goes directly to the elevator fund. Anyone who wants to help can also visit the gallery at 610 Oyster Bay Dr. and drop off a donation.
“This is a generous community,” said Holmes. “I have to say our corporate community, from my perspective, has been so generous and so caring about all our non-profit organizations.”
Holmes says there are many times when people come to the gallery and one person in their party has to stay in the car while they find out whether there is an elevator. When they hear there is none, people with mobility issues and breathing problems are unable to see the displays.
“This will make us accessible to everybody and allow us to have more programs for people who have difficulty with accessibility,” said Holmes. “This is for the community; the arts council is for the community. And it’s not frou-frou — art is for everybody. It gives everybody an opportunity to display and, now when we get the elevator, everybody the opportunity to come and see those displays.”
The elevator campaign started just after Holmes became president of the LAC. She recalls that Pam Fairchild used to bring her husband to the gallery, but as his health got worse, he couldn’t get up the stairs, and they had to stop coming.
“She phoned and said we need an elevator, and I said ‘you’re right, we do,’” said Holmes. “She is an art collector and a patron of the arts. She handed us a cheque for $500. The unfortunate thing is, her husband passed away and she could never bring him to the gallery. John never made it back, but Pam continued to come. She’s now in her 80s, and I was so afraid there would come a time when she wouldn’t be able to come. I didn’t want to fail her too.”
“I’m doing it for Pam and everyone else who finds the stairs difficult — as beautiful as they are, there are 22 of them,” added Holmes.
Holmes hopes they’ll raise enough money to be able to start construction in March and complete the project by the end of August.