The need for a new building to house the Vernon Public Art Gallery was at the top of the agenda at Thursday’s election forum on arts and culture at the gallery.
All Vernon mayoralty candidates agreed that arts and culture are an economic generator in bringing both tourists, businesses and potential residents to the city. However, differences in opinion came on whether a potential new building should be a single or multi-purpose unit that would house the gallery along with other facilities such as the museum.
“I want to go up,” said Jamie Morrow to the approximately 90 people in the audience. “I would like to start with a multi-use building that would see the gallery on the main floor and residences above, allowing for high density and a way to revitalize downtown and bring people downtown.”
Klaus Tribes agreed that a larger facility is needed and that he would like the museum to remain at its current location, in Vernon’s Civic Square.
“I hoped the old library building would be used as the gallery, but the bureaucrats decided it was not big enough. I would love to see the gallery in the civic centre,” he said.
Mary-Jo O’Keefe said the new gallery’s proposed location, at the old Vernon Flower Shop and next to the new city bus depot, has been targeted due to its location.
“We had momentum on this with the last council. It’s why we put the outdoor shelter there,” she said, adding the proposed gallery would utilize the outdoor space for art.
Questions also came on how to pay for the facility and to sell it to the public.
Victor Cumming said he would support the gallery being part of an umbrella organization that would include tourism, however, he said funding for tourism mainly comes from the hotel tax.
“It would be difficult to get around,” he said. “I see it as a two-hump camel with tourism in Vernon having the strongest hump in summer when there are lots of activities in arts and culture. The gap is when you want to do it and when the visitors are here. You need product development and marketing year round.”
Akbal Mund said he would have liked to have seen the referendum for a new gallery go on the last election ballot and would like to see per capita funding for arts and culture.
“I support that and look at arts and culture as an education tool for youth,” he said, “I see people with young families that want to see arts and culture grow in the community.”