Red Deer College’s City Centre Stage was alive with entertainment on Friday, as those on hand for the facility’s grand opening watched performing arts students in the theatre, viewed an RDC film in the cinema, and heard musicians playing in the gallery amidst local artwork.
The importance of the arts was emphasized by several people who spoke at the reception.
“Communities that place arts and learning at their centre, thrive,” said Shelley Ralston, chair of the Red Deer College board of governors.
Acting Red Deer Mayor Cindy Jefferies agreed that turning the former Uptown Cinema building into a teaching and learning facility that will also be available to the public showed great vision.
“When we make choices in our community to build public amenities, to invest in space for people, we create nothing but opportunity and potential.”
Cal Dallas, Alberta’s minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, commented on the “crucial role” that arts play in the lives of Albertans. He said his government has identified culture as a key areas in its mandate to build Alberta.
College president and CEO Joel Ward applauded this recognition that the arts have economic value to the province, and communities. And he praised the City of Red Deer for its support of the college in buying and developing City Centre Stage.
He stressed its importance for educating RDC students, but also said that other members of the community have a place there.
“Every single person in Central Alberta is welcome in these facilities to enjoy the art, to enjoy the music, to enjoy the film, to enjoy the theatre — we want you here.”
That includes use of the premises by Central Alberta Theatre and other arts groups.
Speaking to reporters later, Ward said Red Deer College has been moving towards the arts despite the fact many of its post-secondary counterparts are doing the opposite.
“By adding these new assets, it means more opportunities for more people to access great facilities to do whatever it is they need to do: art, literature, theatre, film.”
Ward said City Centre Stage will further the college’s teaching mandate, not only for those studying the arts but for students in other disciplines. The centre is being used for the Donald School of Business’s Distinguished Speakers Series, as well as a venue for major speeches and other presentations.
But, he added, having an arts-focused facility will benefit all students.
“The creative side of the brain will be exposed to things other than spreadsheets and accounting formulas.”
Ward also said he’s pleased the college is strengthening its ties to Red Deer’s downtown — a connection that took hold two years ago when RDC opened its Donald School of Business in the Millennium Centre.
“If you take a look at downtown redevelopment across the country, you’ll notice there are a number of things that will ensure the success of downtown revitalization. One of the keys is a post-secondary presence downtown.”
Red Deer College announced last November that it was buying City Centre Stage from the Mah family of Red Deer for $1.6 million. The 4922 49th St. building was being leased by Central Alberta Theatre, which had completed extensive renovations there but indicated it could no longer afford the space.