OPINION: The Arts and Culture Centre idea needs to be sold to the public

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: The Arts and Culture Centre idea needs to be sold to the public
An artist's rendering of what the front facade of the future arts centre could look like.

The City of Cornwall got an update on Monday, March 8 on the status of the future Arts and Culture Centre.

The previous Cornwall City Council bought the former Bank of Montreal at 159 Pitt St. in 2018 for $450,000. The City received an estimate a few months later from a consulting firm who estimated that to renovate and redesign the building would cost between $4 million to $6 million.

Since that time, costs have grown. The city learned that due to the quality of the soil under the building, renovations will cost an additional $180,000. On top of the soil issues, construction costs have ballooned by nearly 10 per cent in the past three years raising the estimated cost to over $7 million.

On top of the rising costs, Council also received a business plan from city administration. According to administration, the Arts Centre would run an operating deficit of nearly $170,000 annually.

I believe that the city does need a venue like an Arts and Culture centre. Art, music, drama. These are some of the things that make life worth living.

Cornwall is changing, rapidly. A new arts centre is a part of that change. We have to stop thinking of Cornwall as a place that doesn’t have things. We should start thinking of Cornwall that has its own art and culture, like Montreal, maybe not on the same scale, but definitely in the same spirit.

Like I said, I am convinced that Cornwall does need a venue like an arts and culture centre, what I’m not convinced of however is that Council and administration are presenting this idea in the best possible way.

Have all avenues been explored in terms of ways of generating revenue from this building? Where is the City’s public engagement campaign to sell this idea? Does this new amenity need to be owned and run by the City? Or could this centre be run by a non-profit that receives support from the city as a portion of their overall budget?

No matter what the City decides to do with the arts and culture centre and no matter who winds up running it, the City must sell the idea to the public.

Without a sustained public relations campaign, I feel that this new arts and culture centre will become a source of resentment.

It is always easier to be against something than for it and negative comments are always louder than those who are in favour of something, especially on social media, but the City and even the arts and culture centre fundraising committee need to convince the public that this is something that they want. While I am in favour of having an arts and culture centre in the city, the idea that the facility will operate at a loss of nearly $170,000 perpetually it seems, is hard to comprehend and swallow.

All that being said, I also feel like an arts centre is a harder sell to the public than say the Benson Centre was.
The Benson Centre had a bigger budget at over $32 million. The Benson Centre was built before my time at Seaway News, but I feel that in our community, sports are more accepted and valued than arts. I think that’s wrong and that’s a shame. Sports are great, but we need arts and culture too to have a well-rounded community and one should not be valued over the other.

What do you think of the arts and culture centre project? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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