The idea of creating a regional service to plan, develop and fund performing arts facilities with regional impact received broad, but not unanimous support around the Capital Regional District board table.
The board approved setting aside $150,000 for the project and directed staff to begin the process of establishing such a service, under the guidance of a new committee to be formed specifically for this purpose. The latter point was a recommendation from a standing committee report, Stage One: A Public Conversation About Performing Arts Facilities in the CRD.
While the idea moved forward, paying jointly for such a service requires a CRD bylaw, requiring approval from all member jurisdictions.
Several directors, including Lanny Seaton and Denise Blackwell from Langford, Mike Hicks from Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, Gary Holman from Salt Spring Island and Ryan Windsor from Central Saanich, opposed the idea.
Blackwell said her city already financially supports arts on the West Shore and has plans to build its own performing arts venue. She and Seaton said their council isn’t likely to support sharing financially in a regional facilities plan.
Board chair Colin Plant suggested all municipalities, including those that already contribute to the arts in their own communities, stand to benefit from a regional service.
“That’s the whole goal, that we will all benefit,” he said. “There’s no doubt that when Langford builds a facility, it will be a regional facility at 1,400 seats, or 800 seats. That is just inevitable.”
While the establishment of a service is called for, he added, all CRD jurisdictions will be asked specifically what they would want to see before a bylaw returns to the CRD board.
While noting his community strongly supports downtown arts facilities, Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said the costs and benefits need to be made clear when the requisition goes out to CRD jurisdictions.
Director Susan Brice of Saanich recalled how, when the Royal Theatre was in peril, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria stepped up to buy the regional facility, and the McPherson Playhouse was similarly brought into the CRD fold. Supporting current and future performing arts venues “is an important part of our growth, our development, our fulsomeness as a region,” she said.
Like Murdoch, she acknowledged frank conversations will be needed once the details of the service are known, to help ensure everyone is represented.
To read more about the Stage One report, go online to bit.ly/3vi6myr.