There are a multitude of ways a dedicated art space could be used by the Squamish community. Actors could use it for rehearsals, visual artists could host classes, and dancers could practice their craft all in the same room — and that’s just the start. This is the dream local arts advocates are trying to make a reality, but it hasn’t come together yet.
Squamish Arts executive director Kat Kunze has been working closely with the District of Squamish to create multi-year agreements about how the institutions will intertwine moving forward.
The organization is trying to professionalize their operation, recently hiring two full-time staff, changing their name, and publishing a new strategic plan. When it comes to the arts space, though, there’s still work to be done before they can get the ball rolling.
“We got funding for a future needs assessment which we will undertake this year,” Kunze told The Squamish Chief.
“Once we have that study completed and know what will work in Squamish, we’ll work on advocacy towards that end. As of now though, arts and culture come behind critical and core in the facilities plan as ‘support.’”
A theatre without a home
Kathy Daniels is starting to feel like a broken record.
The founding and artistic director of Between Shifts Theatre for the past 28 years, she’s been advocating for an arts space in Squamish since the 1990s. In the meantime, her troupe has been forced to rehearse in warehouses and apartments. They don’t currently have anywhere to build their sets. She estimates this is an issue that has lasted about half a century so far, ever since the Howe Sound Players were looking for rehearsal space back in the 1970s.
“We’re constantly looking. There’s no feeling of security or future, because we’re constantly fighting battle after battle for rehearsal and set construction space. Now, some spaces we end up paying for them, even though we’re a non-profit organization where nobody takes a wage. So that’s all revenue from our ticket sales,” she said.
“We compare ourselves to other small towns like Salt Spring or Courtney/Comox, where they have their own community theatres, and people feel sorry for us.”
In the past, she’s been disappointed by announced projects that never came to fruition.
“We heard there’d be shovels in the ground in 2010, then shovels definitely by 2020. The years pass and pass, and nothing happens. I went on a tour of other towns back in the 1990s to look at their art centres and how they were built. I fed this information over and over to subsequent councils and people trying to get things going, but nothing ever happened,” she said.
“It’s ridiculous and sad.”
District acknowledges need
The District of Squamish said Squamish Arts received a $25,000 Arts Infrastructure Program grant from BC Arts Council towards a Future Needs Assessment to inform how arts and culture could be incorporated into municipal infrastructure.
A representative for the municipality said that it’s aware of this need.
Staff are considering Arts and Culture venues among the projects within the District’s Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan, wrote District spokesperson Rachel Boguski.
“District staff began engaging with the arts community in 2018 regarding its future needs through the development of the Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan (REFMP). Through this process the need for administrative, maker, storage and artists showcase spaces was identified, along with a performing arts centre,” she continued.
Boguski said the District floated the idea of providing support to this cause without necessarily building standalone facilities. This would help conserve municipal resources.
The forms of support the District considered were grants to support leasing from third-parties, the provision of spaces inside larger District facilities, or the creation of multi-user spaces.
Boguski said council endorsed a motion to support Squamish Arts’ future needs — without constructing a standalone facility — consistent with the recommendations of the upcoming Arts, Culture and Heritage Strategy.
After the Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan, the Arts Culture and Heritage Strategy (ACHS) was endorsed by council in 2020.