Work continues on arts centre revamp

Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
June 11, 2014 12:00 AM

The Port Moody Arts Centre, left, is being joined to a 100-year-old heritage home, right, that was relocated to the site earlier this year. When the two buildings are linked, the house on the right will contain a gathering place for arts-related activities and an indoor studio, and will have an outdoor studio attached.

Ann Kitching dreams of a Port Moody Arts Centre that one day will be a destination for people from all over the country - a place where residents can congregate, perform and express themselves through art.

"It is important for all of us to use our hands and minds together," said Kitching, president of the society that runs the centre.

While her vision could happen one day, the reality for now is that plenty of work remains on the expansion of the centre.

For months, staff at the centre have been working on joining the existing building on St. Johns Street to the old Appleyard/Centennial home.

The 100-year-old heritage home was moved next to the arts centre earlier this year, after it was moved a first time from Clarke Street in 2012.

The plan is to join the two buildings by an atrium and walkway.

To date, the steel for the atrium is up, while the interior of the house has been gutted with reconstruction underway.

The arts centre's executive director, Bruce Campbell, explained the main floor will serve as a gathering space without any specific programming.

The idea is to keep it open for groups or people wanting to put on small plays, performances or poetry readings.

The basement will be a studio, while an outdoor space will be transformed into another studio for more industrial-type art using welding and chain saws.

Meanwhile, the reception desk in the current centre will be moved out of the gallery to make way for more space.

"It's truly a transition for us," Campbell said of the expansion project, pointing out the current space hasn't changed in 15 years.

"A real stepping away from the past, but in a positive way."

If all goes according to plan, the new centre will be hosting an open house at the end of September during Culture Days.

In all, the centre has a budget of $1.1 million for the transformation.

It received a half-million dollar grant from the federal government and another couple of grants from the City of Port Moody and the province.

The arts centre was also asked to come up with another $200,000 to round out the costs.

The centre is getting close to that goal, having raised $170,000 through various events.

And it looks like the completion of the project can't come fast enough for folks at the centre, as Port Moody looks to live up to its City of the Arts designation.

Campbell said the current facility is bursting at the seams, noting 68 per cent of classes offered in 2013 saw enough students register for them to go ahead.

He said the indication is the summer programs will by just as busy and fall programs even more popular.

Campbell suggested the city's growth is playing a role, pointing out the centre is seeing a boost from both ends of the spectrum: The younger generation moving into Port Moody and older residents in their retirement years.

"People are beginning to simply have the awareness that this is here," he said.

The centre is also looking at fall programming aimed at urban professionals.

Still, Campbell predicts it will take the centre about a year to get fully comfortable in its new digs.

Kitching said it's imperative the centre expands to meet the growth of the city.

"A lot of us believe we are the City of the Arts and this makes it very much a richer city," she said.

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