Letters to the Editor: April 20

The arts is good for business; Fire Hall/Cranbrook Arts Council

Good for Business

The arts is good business.

That’s the impression I was left with following a recent Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce meeting where the keynote speaker was James Moore, federal Minister of Industry and Conservative MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam.

In response to a question from Cranbrook Councillor Danielle Cardozo, Moore pointed out that the arts and culture sector represents 640,000 jobs nationally, and that the arts and culture industry in Canada is three times the size of the insurance industry and two times the size of the forest industry.

Interesting numbers!

Which leads me to the pressing need for a decent home for a public art gallery in Cranbrook, the subject of much discussion in recent letters to the editor.

Personally, I would love to see the former Fire Hall, a heritage building, repurposed as a public art gallery. It would be a boon to downtown revitalization and, as Minister Moore’s numbers show, the arts can translate into good business.

But arts and culture are also about more than numbers. There has been some chatter about wants versus needs in recent letters. For me, arts and culture fill a very real need.

Every city needs things like arenas and swimming pools and trails to address the needs of our bodies. Every city needs things like libraries and schools and colleges to address the needs of our minds. And every city needs things like theatre companies and choirs and symphony orchestras to address the needs of our souls.

Cranbrook has many of these things in abundance. About all we need now is a permanent home for a public art gallery. Fill the potholes, as funds permit, by all means. But fill our souls too. Public art is part of that.

It’s not something I want. It’s something I need.

Sandra Albers/Cranbrook

Fire Hall/CDAC

It is disappointing to read much of the misinformation that many people in Cranbrook choose to believe about Cranbrook and District Arts Council and Fire Hall #1.  Good decisions are based on weighing the pros and cons of true facts and not hearsay.

I thank Ms Dodgson for her letter of April 14th for it provides an opportunity to correct much of what is erroneously believed.

In addition to the corrections made by Mr McColl in a letter to the Townsman, Cranbrook and District Arts Council Society has been in existence for forty years, not ten and prior to that under the guidance of Ms. Muriel Baxter it was the Kootenay Fine Arts and Craft Society, giving it a history of 70 plus years in Cranbrook.

The new council has removed the funds once planned to assist in the restoration of this historic building but Cranbrook and District Arts Council has offered to take the restoration on, at no cost to the City.  We have, in fact, been exploring every avenue available for funding and have so far been successful without any help from the City.

Grants are paid to many organizations including the City of Cranbrook.  The Spray Irrigation upgrades would not have been possible without two thirds grant funding from the Federal and Provincial Governments and to date that would mean the City has received approximately 20 million dollars in grants for that project.  That is a pretty big hand out. The funding we receive from grants set aside for Arts and Culture are miniscule by comparison and if we don’t get them in Cranbrook, they go to Fernie, Kimberley and elsewhere. You can see the positive result of that in those communities.

Most BC Communities value and promote the arts by owning buildings, frequently historic or heritage, to showcase the visual arts.  The Municipalities of Kimberley, Fernie, Invermere, Nelson, Revelstoke and Salmon Arm all, for example, own buildings specifically for the Visual Arts.  Nelson alone, a community much smaller than Cranbrook owns the buildings which house the Capitol Theatre, the Civic Theatre, Kootenay School of the Arts and Touchstones Museum. These communities take pride in their artists, their work and skills.  In return these communities gain balance becoming attractive to all.

Using the argument that we should buy the building as some have suggested, maybe minor hockey should buy the Memorial Arena and library users should buy the library.

You may have voted for this Mayor and Council, Ms. Dodgson but do you sincerely believe they are all comfortable revoking an agreement, that was years in the making, included two previous Councils and one on which many volunteers have put hours of volunteer time into? CDAC for its part has acted in good faith in order to preserve a heritage building that would remain in city hands and become a much needed amenity accessible for all taxpayers?  They will not give up now.

Jenny Humphrey/CDAC Volunteer

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