The cultural log jam appeared to be broken back in February.
At that time, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee made some adjustments to the cultural plan, and the hope was this would lead to a new museum and art gallery rising to the top of the priority list.
“This was the big hurdle in the way to pursue things,” said Dauna Kennedy Grant, Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director, in an interview five months ago.
“The next step is to look at infrastructure needs. I am optimistic we will see some progress on our project.”
Now you’d have to be living in a cave not to know that the current museum and art gallery are extremely inadequate to meet the needs of a growing community.
Neither facility has the climate controls necessary to ensure the integrity of our community’s precious artifacts and to meet national and international standards to attract travelling exhibits. On top of this, the buildings have been known to spring leaks during heavy rain.
A lack of storage means that critical pieces of history and art are stacked on shelves or piled up on floors. Some of the items never see the light of day because there isn’t enough room for exhibits.
And at a time when there is more demand from parents to have their children involved in activities instead of sitting on the couch with their phone, the museum and gallery’s outreach activities are restricted because there isn’t any room.
The museum would like a new facility from 23,0000 to 30,000-square-feet in size while the art gallery has suggested 18,000-square-feet would be sufficient.
Now obviously new buildings aren’t cheap — about $17 million — and that’s some of the reluctance among elected officials. They aren’t sure if the public would vote to borrow money for cultural amenities. But keep in mind, residents rallied behind the performing arts centre in 2001 and sports projects — tracks and arenas — always get the green light.
Back in February, Juliette Cunningham, GVAC chairperson, wouldn’t commit on when decisions may be made on moving the art gallery and museum ahead.
“We want an advisory team formed and that’s where the discussion will occur. Cultural groups want input on facilities,” she said.
But unless something has been occurring behind the scenes, the entire issue seems to have stalled. Not a peep about culture has surfaced at any public meetings.
And yet conditions at the museum and the gallery haven’t got any better. In fact, they are probably worse as collections continue to grow and the need for programs climb.
There will be, of course, those in the public who question the need for a new gallery and museum, and the costs involved, but keep in mind that cultural is a critical component of a strong economy. Tourists consider what attractions are available when selecting a destination to visit, while investors do the same when pursuing companies to set up shop in. Young families and retirees want to know that they can lead active, rewarding lives when selecting a new home.
And culture, like sports and recreation, helps create well-rounded citizens.
Summer means little will happen on the political front right now, but hopefully when September rolls back around and meeting agendas ramp up, culture will be front and centre. The politicians can’t ignore the issue forever.