Planning begins for gallery location

A proposed site for an art gallery has been identified but now the hard work begins.

Vernon council has agreed in principle to the Vernon Public Art Gallery being located on city-owned land on 31st Avenue (the old Vernon Flower Shop).

“This is the first step in a series of steps we’ll have to take,” said Dauna Kennedy Grant, gallery executive director.

With a tentative site in place, the gallery will try and bring funding sources together.

“Right away, we’re going after planning dollars from the federal and provincial government,” said Kennedy Grant.

Talks will also continue with the Greater Vernon Museum to see if it will be part of the project or if there is even enough space for both groups.

“It’s a matter of if we can incorporate the museum into it,” said Kennedy Grant.

Discussions would also have to be held with the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee to determine if it will participate in construction costs or assist with operating expenses as it does at the current gallery.

It must also be determined if there would be a need for a referendum to borrow funds.

“That’s in the discussion. We’re looking at all of our options,” said Kennedy Grant.

A stand-alone, 18,000-square-foot gallery could cost about $5 million, but the price tag would climb if the museum was included.

“We’re looking at a category A facility,” said Kennedy Grant of the need for climate control and 16-foot-high ceilings to meet federal requirements for exhibits.

Both the art gallery and museum are presently at capacity with space, and it’s been suggested new facilities would bolster downtown revitalization.

“We would see it as anchoring the cultural district,” said Kennedy Grant.

It’s hoped a new gallery could be open by 2015, and the city has said its support for the 31st Avenue site is only available until December 2012 as a way of keeping the planning process moving.

“We can also consult with all of the groups and make sure the facility is the proper size and in the right place,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky supports the location because it is central to amenities, but admits the planning process is complex and there is no guarantee a gallery will proceed.

“There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts. We have to get the regional district on board,” he said.



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