The stairs at the Ladysmith Waterfront  Gallery can be a deterrent

The stairs at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery can be a deterrent

Ladysmith Arts Council looks for a lift

The arts council is raising money to install an elevator at the gallery to make it more accessible.

Pam Fairchild and her husband loved going to the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery together. Until his health deteriorated, and he couldn’t get up the stairs anymore.

For people like the Fairchilds who miss out on arts and culture because the gallery, located on the second floor of the blue Expo Building on Oyster Bay Drive, is not accessible, the Ladysmith Arts Council (LAC) is raising money to install an elevator at the gallery.

Fairchild helped get the fundraising campaign going when she made a donation to the elevator campaign because her husband was not able to climb the stairs.

“This was a real loss because he loved going with me,” she said. “The gallery is so lovely. I am a strong supporter of an elevator for the art gallery because people with mobility problems have a real problem. It would make it possible for people to get up there.”

Fairchild is a big believer in and supporter of the arts. She has a philosophy on art that comes from June Wayne, who said: “The arts are the rainforests of society. They provide the oxygen of freedom and they are the early warning system when freedom is in danger.”

“You find in countries where there is a lot of oppression, the artists are the brave ones,” she said. “All kinds of things are arts, and I think we must support them. I would make an appeal to all of Ladysmith who appreciate the arts. I think we have to remove all the obstacles and encourage people to get up there and appreciate all the beauty there is.”

The LAC has been asking its members for funds, selling pottery pears made by LAC president Kathy Holmes as fundraisers for $10 each, and holding ongoing art silent auctions.

“People are being able to pick up very beautiful art for not very much money,” noted Holmes.

The LAC has been working on getting an elevator for the gallery for about a year and a half. Holmes says the  project will probably cost $80,000 to $90,000, including all the renovations to the art gallery and studio space that would go along with the installation of the elevator.

The arts council recently applied for a BC Creative Spaces grant from the provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. The LAC has already raised about $6,000, and if they get the Creative Spaces grant, Holmes expects they will need $30,000 to $35,000.

The LAC, which is 100-per-cent volunteer-run, will find out if it receives the grant at the end of March.

“If we get it, I’d like to have everything in place, raring to go and finished by October or November next year,” said Holmes. “But we need the community support.”

This year, more than 5,000 people have visited the gallery, and Holmes estimates that of those, 10 per cent were unable to get up the stairs.

“Lots of times, we hear the door open and then shut, and we wonder why,” she said. “Or, the able-bodied person in the pair comes up and asks if we have an elevator and when we say no, they say ‘we can’t come.’ Even our own members can’t come up the stairs to the gallery.”

The gallery now accepts Visa, Mastercard and debit, so anyone who wants to support the elevator fund can phone in a donation. People can also donate at 610 Oyster Bay Dr. or mail a cheque, made out to Ladysmith Arts Council, to Box 2370, Ladysmith B.C., V9G 1B8.