Cultural activities have been off the political radar for years, but headway is finally being made.
Private discussions have been held between the City of Vernon and the Vernon Public Art Gallery over the prospect of a purpose-built facility downtown by 2015.
Such talks are long past due given that the gallery is in cramped quarters and doesn’t have the light and climate controls necessary to protect precious art.
However, the process being pursued is a concern given that one organization has been left sitting on the sidelines — the Greater Vernon Museum.
Like the gallery, the museum is also desperately overcrowded, with little space available for public programs and artifacts are at risk because of a lack of a storage.
Previous attempts to bolster the cultural scene have placed the museum and gallery in one building, but that hasn’t been the case this time around. From what I understand, the talks have revolved only around the gallery’s needs.
And, ultimately, that approach could prove disastrous.
After all, local politicians and taxpayers will be responsible for construction and operating costs. There is more chance of success if it can be proven that money is being used wisely and efficiencies can be gained by sharing climate control — which both the gallery and museum require — or things as simple as photocopiers and a reception desk. Senior levels of government are more likely to hand out grants to construction projects that are multi-faceted and exhibit co-operation among various interests.
But beyond dollars and cents, there is another reason that the gallery and museum must work together, and that is the ballot box.
It’s long been proven that referendums to borrow money are far more successful when they appeal to a broad segment of the community.
Think back to the Wesbild Centre vote in 1999 and how it brought together hockey, speed skating, lacrosse, figure skating, trade show promoters, hotels and those interested in general economic development.
Or there was 1992 when far-flung interests aligned to back expansion of the swimming pool and land acquisition for parks, trails and beaches.
The fewer people that have a vested interest in the projects listed on the ballot, the fewer residents motivated to go out and vote. That means those who are simply opposed to their taxes increasing are more likely to prevail.
By coming together, the museum and gallery could rally their die-hard supporters and ensure good turnout at the polls. They could also advocate the plan to voters who are not aligned with either group but are interested in the social and economic wellbeing of Greater Vernon.
Representatives from the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the City of Vernon are to be commended for the steps that have been taken, and it indicates that culture is finally being taken seriously.
But for Greater Vernon residents to truly get the services they deserve, a more inclusive approach is required.
If that occurs, it could be a win-win for everyone involved.
Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star