The Arts Council of Ladysmith and District has an opportunity to apply for a BC Arts Council grant, which could help the Waterfront Art Gallery return to its old venue at the Ladysmith Machine Shop. It requested a letter of support from the Town of Ladysmith, which was discussed at council’s Nov. 30 special meeting.
The grant could provide up to $250,000 for renovations of the old building. There is $4 million in the provincial fund to be distributed to arts organizations and the deadline to apply is Jan. 14. After discussing the letter, town council referred the issue back to staff to gather more information on the proposed project and grant application.
“We are disappointed of course because we feel uncertain about our future,” said Kathy Holmes, president of the arts council. “At this point, the arts council is going to be looking at all sort of avenues to find a home — wherever that is, permanently or temporarily.”
The grant application requires a detailed outline of the proposed project, with milestones and a timeline and it is required to have a completion date before the end of 2024.
Mayor Stone said the town would likely not hear back about the grant application within a year and it would take another year or two for design and construction work. “I am fully supportive of the concept of this — I just don’t see in my most optimistic viewpoint that we could find it as a reality between now and the end of 2024,” he said.
Coun. Duck Paterson said the town does not yet know when tenants will be able to return to the Machine Shop or where the funds to renovate it will come from — the grant, if successful, would only provide a portion. He questioned whether the town has the staff time and resources to help the arts council complete the application.
“We definitely have the staff to look after some of this. We do have a lot of this information we have compiled over the years through the Machine Shop project,” said Chris Barfoot, director of parks, recreation and culture. He added the town has cost estimates, but they are from 2018–19 and would have to be updated.
In order to find ways to plan a phased approach for the project, he said staff would have to go back and work with consultants. “We know that there is a price to complete the entire project. It would be a matter of how do we achieve a phased approach and what type of services and utilities need to be addressed to do that.”
Coun. Marsh Stevens supported sending the item back to staff to get more details to consider at the next council meeting. “I love that they are taking initiative as a community group to do this but I want them to be successful,” he said.
Paterson suggested the town give a letter of support for a separate part of the grant, which could provide $25,000 to assist with planning and consultation. “I know that’s not what they want, but I think it would be easier for us to accept,” he said.
The arts council will provide an annual presentation to council on Dec. 7 to update the town on its operations.