Unleash the power of the arts

Resident makes pitch for cultural facilities to bolster the economy

ROI: 7 to 1. This stood out to me when I was researching the economic benefits of an art gallery. The return on investment when you support arts and culture is seven times what you spend. ROI: 7 to 1.

My good friend Richard Rolke has it wrong this time in his column when he claimed there was no magic bullet for our economy. They exist and are called culture.

You can find magic bullets in our arts and our history. We have some international gems to show. Our current plan of building modest museums is better than nothing but we could do more under one roof for similar dollars with today’s building technologies. An iconic cultural centre could be 10 times better than the performing arts theatre has been for us. This is a golden opportunity. ROI: 7 to 1

If you invest $20 million, you get back $140 million. Show me an economic plan with that kind of return.

If we are looking for an economic generator to turn this community around, it is surely in a new cultural showpiece. I applaud our local leaders who are planning for a vote in the spring. It is time we built these facilities but we need to make sure we get the most out of it.

King Louis had a number of magic bullets as he celebrated his culture and led France to a leading economic nation in the world. He was a builder. If King Louis gave me the chance to shoot some magic bullets here for him by building something special, I would support our culture like he did his. I would build something iconic and whimsical. But Canadian style.

I would put the two museums under one roof as it then will become a full day’s entertainment and a big reason to explore Vernon. An anchor tenant for the community if you will. Separately on their own would be much less of an impact. Together in one building, they become a destination.

The referendum question is about the money and how we borrow the funds. The vote in the spring has nothing to do with the design so starting fresh with the design would not hold that process up. We can draw top architects from around the world to compete in a design competition using sustainable technologies and carbonless footprints. All we require is a list of needs which we have and a location.

The architects brief could go like this. “A timber framed building of galleries, with level floors or a ramped floor winding around a central square, built inside an iconic whimsical shaped thermal outer building made of Teflon, wire and steel which begs to be sustainable in both earth friendly and energy efficient ways, all for a budget around $20 million.”

That brief, a list of needs and a site visit is all the architects require.

Why Teflon? Teflon offers a creatively shaped shell that cleans itself in the rain and can vent or warm the space inside saving on operating costs as well as daytime lighting.

The main plus with Teflon structures is it can be built for 20 per cent of the traditional costs of concrete or steel beams as roof spans can be more than three times the distance making it easy to build a free standing building inside.

The Water Cube swimming pool at the Beijing Olympics perfected the technology as the outer walls cool or heat the building depending on the need. A small fan does the job.

If we invest our funds in one attraction, we can create that one missing piece that will put us on the map. With Teflon we can create something special like in Bilbao (google it) or the Sydney Opera House, for a lot less. Maybe not so busy a design but one with flowing curves. Canadian style.

I would also bet King Louis that if he gave each of us a free cultural pass, that you would become ambassadors and invite your friends to visit, taking them as paying visitors, adding to the success.  Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to get something back for our vote other than a tax bill increase?

Arts and culture is an $85 billion-plus industry in Canada and we would do our economy right if we backed building a single cultural centre that catches your eye and your imagination. Something that has turnstiles with tourists and locals lined up to stream right through. There are millions of people within a day’s drive of us and we should build something here that ends up on their bucket lists.

This is a perfect opportunity to turn our economy around with our rich culture and I think we deserve more than the status quo. Remember 7 to 1 and help create something special. Get involved in the discussion and support our culture as it should be.

Richard, we have the talent and the stories and if we build an iconic centre offering a full day of entertainment, it will be a magic bullet and they will come.


David Hesketh