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Multiple local groups interested in improved arts space

Four different arts group have come before City of Grande Prairie committees over the past few weeks, and all says they’d like to see an improved arts space. The Reel Shorts Film Festival, Broadway Live Broadway Director Ken Perry, the Peace Regional Independent Media Arts Association, and the Grande Prairie Live Theatre Company have all commented on how more theatre space would be a benefit to their organizations.

Reel Shorts Festival Producer Terry Scerbak says they are looking for a space designed with film in mind. Their current space options present sound limitations and the shift to digital by distributors is also a struggle.

PRIMAA was also before committee Tuesday, updating the city on their new rental program and set space. Board Member Chris Beauchamp says the performing arts centre is a hot topic.

“I know there’s a lot of people out there who think it’s too soon but I can say that organizations like ours and several of the other arts groups that we collaborate with would benefit huge from a space like the performing arts centre that was proposed.”

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Beauchamp is referring to a plan that was presented to council by Stantec last summer. Before the last election, the previous council heard that building a regional performing arts centre could come with a price tag of nearly $100 million. Mayor Bill Given says the new council has yet to discuss the idea.

“I think council has been focused on developing our strategic plan, our strategic priorities that will be in the priority based budgeting. Then ultimately we’ll measure community projects against those priorities that we’ve developed.”

The Stantec study found the region is large enough to support a performing and media arts centre. The population demographics also support the idea. There is a growing number and proportion of youth
and seniors who could benefit from programming. The report highlighted St. Albert’s Arden Theatre as a good comparison for the size of region served and sustainable operations.

Producer Ken Perry says the facility options that exist now are also limiting. The Douglas J Cardinal Theatre comes with some challenges for set pieces.

“There’s no fly. There’s pipes running across the ceiling of the stage so you can’t lift anything up and the wings are really small. So we’re really limited by the set.”

Perry acknowledges the hard work of the staff at the GPRC theatre, but says that’s also typical of the region. He says he keeps coming back to the city to work with the deep pool of talent supplied by the region.

Mayor Given says the number of arts groups before council has been a coincidence but the community is looking for support.

“I think it does demonstrate we do have an active and growing performing arts community in Grande Prairie. That will eventually justify consideration of additional space.”

While Given says there is no timeline in place for a new arts centre, he adds it’s exciting to see the growth in both the creative arts projects and the community support as well. He mentioned that Broadway Live Broadway added more shows to their last run and have built in the ability to add more shows to their upcoming production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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