I concur with Paul Maynes and his enthusiastic letter written about the local talent in this community.
Across all genres – the dance companies, the performing arts schools, the theatre troupes and the live bands – the shows and level of talent we have available to us is truly remarkable. But I write this letter not so much as to applaud the talent, but to raise a point that would facilitate this talent. It’s something I have witnessed for some time now being required in our community.
Now I can already hear those who will throw up their hands and roll their eyes, thinking of cost and so-called necessity, but I do believe it needs to be examined. We need a community theatre much like the Rotary Centre of the Arts in Kelowna. A theatre that can seat 400 to 450 patrons, that has rehearsal halls and a cafe — a place where all of this talent can express, grow and shine.
The Vernon Performing Arts Centre is a remarkable venue. We are indeed blessed to have it and it has proven itself worthy of its existence many times in the years since the referendum for it came to be. But it has its own mandate and to be frank, is booked up for the next 16 months. Some of the local groups use it for their own productions and year-end shows because there is nowhere else available and the 750-seat capacity is generally a bit too large. The Powerhouse Theatre, gem that it is, also has its own mandate and with just over 200 seats, is a smaller site to consider for productions, and again, availability is at a premium. There is the Schubert Center and several halls, but these places do not have the amenities necessary for performing art events to take place regarding staging, sound and lights. Groups like the Vernon Folk Roots Music Society bring high quality shows but there is no place that is ready to go. They have to rent PA, lights etc.
All of these factors make it difficult at times to present productions at a reasonable dollar value for the audience. Many times when shows are presented in a smaller venue, they are sold out, which is a real shame when you consider all of the love and labour that goes into these productions.
We have wonderful athletic amenities in this area, and I am glad that our youth take full of advantage of them.
But not all youth are athletic, and many take the arts path. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Perhaps the site of the old arena would be a good place to build such a centre of the arts. And while I’m at it, add a museum and art gallery into the mix and make a cultural block. I am just putting forward an idea that I hope our city and community seriously considers as part of our future development.
I know these things are expensive, and I know funding it would be a challenge, but I believe it is something that should be seriously considered to round out our community’s offerings. Vernon is growing, our valley is growing, and creating such a space, if well executed, would only add to our economy.
To quote the Globe and Mail, “We have to stop thinking about the arts and culture as simply nice-to-haves. They are just as important as well-maintained roads and bridges. By giving us the chance to stimulate our minds with new ideas and experiences, they give us the opportunity to become more creative. Arts and culture are the infrastructure for the mind.”
We are taking care of our bodies with the wonderful physical activity amenities we have, but we need to also care for our creative minds as well, for both the performers and the attendees.