Leaks and cramped storage: Vernon’s art gallery and museum make their case for new cultural centre
With less than three weeks to go until voters in the Vernon area weigh in on whether they support a loan for a new cultural centre, two of the organizations that would benefit from the new space gave behind-the-scenes tours of their current facilities.
By inviting the media in to see the weaknesses of their current spaces, the art gallery and museum were hoping to convince voters to support a $25-million loan for the cultural centre project.
The Vernon Public Art Gallery’s executive director Dauna Kennedy took the media into the gallery’s storage room where they must find space for everything from stacks of chairs for events to stored artwork not currently on display.
Some items have to be wrapped in plastic because moisture is leaking into the room.
“[The] permanent collection is supposed to be kept in proper temperature and humidity controls and they should be kept in a vault that protects the collection. We don’t have the ability to do that here,” Kennedy said.
“It is part of our responsibility to look after it but in the facilities that we have currently, we do the best we can but it is certainly not up to standards for protecting the art that we have.”
Kennedy said the proposed cultural centre would give the art gallery a proper storage space for its collection.
“We do have artists that would like to donate pieces but aren’t willing to at this point until we have a proper facility that we can bring it into,” Kennedy said.
It is a similar situation at the Vernon Museum and Archives where less than 10 per cent of the collection is on display because the museum doesn’t have the space to display a larger portion of the artifacts.
Meanwhile, the museum’s storage rooms are piled high with irreplaceable pieces of local history.
“We protect the artifacts and the archives for this community — that is why we have to do a good job,” interim executive director Roger Lamoureux said.
“If we are going to hold onto the history of this city, we need to have the ability to do our jobs.”
Lamoureux said that along with providing more space for the museum to store and display artifacts, the new cultural centre would allow the museum to bring larger travelling exhibits to Vernon.
Critics of the borrowing proposal argue that the regional district shouldn’t be borrowing $25 million for the project when it is facing other challenges like homelessness and there is a demand for other facilities in Vernon like a new swimming pool.
Kennedy points out that if Vernon does not borrow the money for this initiative, the funds won’t be diverted to other civic projects.
“What we have the ability to do with this project is tap into some provincial and federal grants that are art and culture-specific so if we don’t take advantage of those, that money goes to other communities,” Kennedy said.
“By having the initial investment by our community, it opens the door for us to bring in some of those provincial and federal dollars — other communities get to tap into them and Vernon losses out.”
Kennedy also said work is being done to create more affordable housing in Vernon and whether the cultural centre project goes ahead or not won’t impact efforts to curb homelessness.
Residents in Vernon, Coldstream and Electoral Areas B and C will be able to vote in the cultural centre-borrowing referendum during the civic elections on Oct. 20.
The entire cost of the cultural centre is budgeted at $40 million and the electorate is being asked whether they support borrowing $25 million.
The loan would be paid back over 20 years and the regional district estimates it would cost the average household $48 a year.
However, some of that cost would be offset by the repayment of other civic loans for the original ice sheet at Kal Tire Place and the Performing Arts Centre.
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