OPINION: When considering Aultsville’s future, also consider the Cornwall Arts Centre

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: When considering Aultsville’s future, also consider the Cornwall Arts Centre
St. Lawrence College's Cornwall Campus (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

At Cornwall City Council last Monday, St. Lawrence College (SLC) President Glenn Vollebregt hinted at a change in the relationship between the College and the theatre on their Cornwall campus, Aultsville Theatre.

“As our mandate as a college we are not allowed to run facilities and programs that are not part of our mandate,” he said. “And yet I know the importance of Aultsville Theatre and its importance to culture and our community.”

“It’s an amazing place and it’s important that this facility remains successful and remains sustainable,” he went on to say.

Beyond that statement, Vollebregt did not expand on how the nature of the College’s relationship to Aultsville might change and when asked by Seaway News SLC’s communications department said they had nothing to add.

After the meeting I asked Cornwall Mayor Glen Grant for his thoughts and he said that the City might find itself offering financial support to help maintain Aultsville Theatre.

Aultsville Theatre has been an important venue and home for the arts in Cornwall for many years, and I hope that a resolution is found to keep the theatre alive and financially healthy for years to come. I also believe that Cornwall needs an arts centre to serve as a home for all forms of art, not just those that are show on a stage.

The City of Cornwall purchased the former Bank of Montreal on Pitt St. for $450,000 with the intention of turning that into an arts centre. The most recent estimate pegs the renovations to the building at over $7 million and the City’s Parks and Recreation Department projects that the facility would operate at a deficit.

If the City is going to be considering financially supporting Aultsville Theatre, I think they should look at the state of arts and culture in Cornwall as a whole and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being invested efficiently for maximum return.

Mayor Grant did say that he sees the future Arts Centre on Pitt St. as having a different and distinct character from Aultsville Theatre, but if the City finds itself investing in both, I feel that they should ensure that there isn’t an overlap of service.

Like I said, the Arts Centre requires $7 million to renovate, is projected to operate at a deficit, and has less available parking when compared to Aultsville Theatre.

Meanwhile, Aultsville Theatre recently had a brand-new lighting system installed, and is a much larger venue. Additionally, if the City does find itself investing more money into Aultsville, then I think there should be concessions given to the city by the College. There is more room in that building than just the auditorium, which Vollebregt already says that the College barely uses. If the City is given more floor space in that part of the campus, then they might be able to fit in all of what they hope to have in the future Arts Centre on Pitt St.

Like I said, I am a supporter of Aultsville Theatre and I am a supporter of the idea of having an Arts and Culture Centre in Cornwall, but a vocal number of our readers have been skeptical of the business plan for the Arts Centre as well as expressing some concerns over its location.

Finally, I feel that it would be an injustice to taxpayers if the City funded both Aultsville Theatre and the Arts Centre, but did not first consider possible economizations between the two.

I am glad that Mayor Grant requested a report from City administration on the future of Aultsville Theatre and I hope that they take the bigger picture of arts and culture in Cornwall into consideration as they write that report.

What do you think readers? Email me your Letters to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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