Arts scene expanding; regional groups looking to build performance centres

Two more Central Alberta communities are exploring the idea of expanding their cultural scenes through new performing arts centres.

Two more Central Alberta communities are exploring the idea of expanding their cultural scenes through new performing arts centres.

Groups in Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House are the latest to float the notion of having local cultural centres built.

“We want to see what’s viable and what would meet the needs of the community,” said Kathy Bradshaw, who recently helped form the Sylvan Lake Arts Alliance to see if the idea has legs.

As manager of Sylvan’s popular Jazz at the Lake festival, which draws big crowds every August, Bradshaw knows her group could use an air-conditioned performance venue that could seat 300 or more people.

Other local groups have also supported the idea, including the owner of a dance studio. In the absence of an in-town venue, 300 Sylvan Lake dance students have to hold their recitals in Red Deer, said Bradshaw. She noted local visual artists have also expressed a desire for gallery and studio space.

“We need to get arts groups in the community as organized as possible,” said Bradshaw, who aims to be like the organized sports groups, who can successfully band together to get mutual needs met.

The first step will be holding a 6:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at Sylvan Lake’s public library to gauge the extent of local support.

Bradshaw said town officials were invited, but have not yet confirmed their attendance.

The question of whether Rocky needs a new performing arts centre should be settled by next summer. That’s when Edward Medeiros, of the Northern Crossing music and drama society, expects to complete the first stage of a feasibility study.

In response to a society request, the Town of Rocky and Clearwater County both pledged $5,000 towards the cost of a study to determine whether a performing arts centre would fly in Rocky Mountain House.

The 30-year-old Northern Crossing is also contributing some money and expects to make up the rest of the required $25,000 from community donations.

Medeiros said his theatre group has outgrown its existing performance space in the Lou Soppit Community Centre, which was never designed for stage musicals. “We’re very prosperous in Rocky, but we don’t have a home for the arts.”

Medeiros, who has the support of the local Rotary club and other groups, would love to have a new 400-seat facility with rehearsal space and a smaller 100-seat theatre. But he said the study will determine what’s feasible. He expects it to be completed by June or July.

The idea of building local performing arts centres was previously voiced by groups in Red Deer and Lacombe.

The City of Lacombe is providing $10,000 for a feasibility study to determine whether a local performing arts centre can be sustainable in that centre. But the idea hasn’t gone as far in Red Deer.

While the Red Deer the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, which regularly sells out the 600-seat Red Deer College Arts Centre for its concerts, would like a larger facility, a feasibility study has not yet been done, pending the formation of a local committee to help spearhead the effort.