Arts community comes together to look for answers

What’s the status? Can an all-for-one philosophy inject new life into battered sector?

Jessie Johnson (left)

Jessie Johnson (left)

Duncan Garage Showroom’s demise has spurred an arts-and-culture status meeting to brainstorm problems and solutions, and prevent other closures across Cowichan.

The Nov. 26 community gathering will be held, 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Cowichan Theatre’s lobby.

It’s designed to gauge the valley’s A&C health, and prescribe remedies, outside funding help, explained Kirsten Schrader, regional arts and culture manager.

“How can we work together, communicate, assess and move forward to maintain and expand the amazing cultural life of our area?” her release asks.

Schrader’s seeking proactive thinking about events and places some folks take for granted.

Casualties include the Showroom, The Dancing Bean, and the Cowichan Fringe Festival.

“Obviously, the loss of (the Showroom) really shocked and upset people,” said Schrader, noting she attended events there.

“It’s no small thing to have the Showroom close.”

Schrader explained she had talked with Showroom owner Longevity John Falkner in the past three years about forming his business into a non-profit society, with a board of directors, to help apply for government funds.

But the meeting isn’t just about the Showroom, “it’s about the entire (A&C) region struggling.”

Grants, gaming funds, and other public bucks are only available to societies and other non-profit groups, not businesses such as the Showroom (possibly reopening elsewhere under a new name).

Part of the evening will consist of Schrader giving a presentation on various funding models in other regions.

She hopes all stakeholders, public and private, come together and offer their two cents.

“Many groups come to me on a regular basis looking for support to share their struggle, and let me know how much they can stretch a dollar.

“I’m amazed how much these groups do with so little. That means they’re resourceful, but there’s a limit.”

But gaming grants, for example, are inconsistent with group’s budgets.

Schrader’s reviewing applications from 14 valley groups hoping to share $50,000 in one-time ArtVest money, to be matched by cash and/or goods from local businesses.

Meanwhile, Cowichan, Chemainus and Ladysmith arts-council agent are invited to share ideas and successes at the town-hall huddle “so we get a picture of what’s happening across the region.”

Valley politicians are welcome, but hadn’t been sent RSVPs, she said.

“My role is noting those concerns, and bringing them to the CVRD regional services committee the next night.”

Schrader will ask the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s electoral services committee to recommend creating an arts and culture committee. It would pursue valley taxation for arts and culture events, groups and heritage.

“It’s about bringing a groundswell of community voices together to ask for any changes they desire.”

For more, call 250-748-7529.

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