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Coronavirus: Penticton arts group must vacate historic Shatford building

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Coronavirus: Penticton arts group must vacate historic Shatford building – Jun 4, 2020

It’s one of Penticton, B.C.’s most important heritage buildings.

The nearly 100-year-old Shatford Centre on Main Street has been a community hub for creativity and innovation for the past decade; home to the Okanagan School of the Arts (OSA).

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But COVID-19 paused the paint strokes. The building has been temporarily closed since mid-March.

“And that meant that most of our revenue stream evaporated. All of our programming had to be stopped, all of our event rentals, all of that,” said executive director Kim Palmer.

READ MORE: Okanagan arts organizations struggling to survive coronavirus pandemic

At the same time, the terms of its lease expire June 30.

While the non-profit rents the 30,000-square-foot building from the Okanagan Skaha School District for one dollar a year, it is responsible for maintenance, utilities and insurance costs.

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“Looking forward, we knew we would need some help, and that’s why we approached the school district and asked if we could enter into some kind of partnership agreement,” Palmer said.

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The arts school asked the school district for help covering expenses, but SD 67 is facing its own financial challenges due to declining enrolment and budget shortfalls.

“In the proposal it was going to cost the school district operating dollars, and those operating dollars are going to be taken away from the students in our district so we couldn’t support a plan that would remove money from our students,” said SD 67 board chair James Palanio.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic claims Okanagan business; Summerland arts store permanently closes its doors

So the arts school must vacate the historic building by the end of the month.

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Artist Norberto Rodriguez was removing his artwork from the walls on Thursday when Global News visited the site.

“Losing this facility is really bad,” he said.

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“It will affect the whole arts community in Penticton and the Okanagan Valley tremendously.”

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“The community as a whole is hurting from the idea of it not being available to them,” Palmer added.

The City of Penticton has previously supported the arts group, offering $67,000 in grant funding over the past two years to keep it financially afloat.

Communications manager Philip Cooper says staff are working with the OSA to potentially find a city-owned property for the arts group.

READ MORE: Okanagan musician beats stress by sharing online performances

“The City has also been approached for utility relief, but other than the overall City program of not charging penalties or disconnecting for non-payment, to date, nothing further has been provided to the OSA,” Cooper said.

Palanio said the building will stay vacant for the time-being.

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“We have had no decisions as to what to do with the building, because of the way things have been going with COVID and our other challenges that we have had to overcome, in all honesty, it hasn’t been a priority for us, we have not talked to anybody else,” he said.

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It’s a final curtain call and the end of an era for the South Okanagan’s arts community, members say.

“Very sad. Very, very sad,” Rodriguez said as he left the building.

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