Arts and culture pair up for vote

Vernon Public Art Gallery has teamed up with the Greater Vernon Museum with idea of holding a spring 2014 referendum on cultural facilities

It’s an old idea being made anew.

The Vernon Public Art Gallery has teamed up with the Greater Vernon Museum and approached the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee board of directors with the idea of holding a spring 2014 referendum on cultural facilities.

If successful, and if a referendum successfully passes, the art gallery – currently located in the basement of the downtown parkade – would get a new home at the old Vernon Flower Shop site on 31st Avenue, and the museum would expand on its current 32nd Avenue site.

Both would be connected by a public walkway and greenspace and both, for the moment, are ballparked at around $6 million each.

“We are teaming up again in part due to ordinary efficiencies but it’s also been indicated to us by GVAC that it would be a good idea,” said Andrew Powell, art gallery president who was joined in making a presentation to GVAC directors Thursday morning by gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant and Greater Vernon Museum director Rob Tupper.

The goal of the gallery and museum is one that has been pitched since pre-1986, improving the cultural facilities in Greater Vernon.

Calling the two projects a “cultural campus,” an idea once pitched along with the Vernon Library at the old Coldstream Hotel site, Powell said the two organizations believe culture makes a community thrive and that Greater Vernon deserves to thrive.

At the moment, said Powell, the ability to thrive culturally is stunted by the lack of adequate facilities.

“Our goal is a shared one. It’s an idea that’s been thought about before and it’s a great concept,” said Powell. “We’re prepared to advance with it as a phased program for many years. We’re both content with the sites proposed. We expect we’ll be good and happy neighbours.”

Added Tupper: “The proximity of the two locations and the opportunity to be joined by public open space and walkways is an exciting prospect. Our board supports the cultural hub concept and looks forward to working with the art gallery to make this a reality.”

Both groups have asked GVAC for help in preparing a planned referendum, which includes whether residents would be asked to vote on both facilities in one question, or if separate questions for each group would be asked. They have requested some background information in regards to costs associated with the recent successful referendum on a new sports complex located at Okanagan College.

The gallery and museum would prefer to see both projects under one question, and would prefer a spring referendum as opposed to one later in 2014 with municipal elections looming later in the year in November.

“We felt cultural services, especially the two projects working together, deserve to be highlighted in their own merit and not clouded by the municipal election and issues associated with the election,” said Kennedy Grant.

“We felt it was really important that we got cultural services out there ahead of time so it can stand on its own, so we can educate people about the projects and have a fair shot at having a successful referendum.”

Both groups have said they are prepared to help with referendum costs.

Coldstream director Gyula Kiss believes the two organizations have earned the right to go to the public.

“This issue has been going on for a long time,” he said. “These people have the right to have the issue go to the public. If people say they want an art gallery, they’ll vote for it. If not, they’ll vote against it. It’s up to us to let them have the opportunity to go to the public.”

Directors unanimously passed a motion to have Regional District of North Okanagan staff prepare information on the timeline, resources and costs associated with a proposed spring 2014 art gallery/museum referendum.