Saturday, April 24, 2010

Final funding in place for Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts

As mentioned in my entry last week, April has turned out to be a very good month for the arts community in St. Catharines-Niagara. Finally, after months of delay on behalf of the provincial governent, the green light has finally been given for the new Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

Last year, you may recall, both the federal, provincial and municipal governments joined forces to provide the funding for the Civic complex, to complement the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines, which would be home to the arts programs at Brock University. All that was missing was the provincial funding for the Brock University portion of the complex, and that seemed to take a long time to show up at the arts door, but show up it did this week, courtesy of MPP Jim Bradley. Basically, the province has kicked in the required 26.2 million over four years for the arts complex, an investment as part of the provincial government's Open Ontario plan to generate opportunities for jobs and economic growth.

The Brock portion of the complex will be a state-of-the-art facility for more than 500 full-time students and faculty, thereby freeing up needed space at Brock's main campus for other programs. The real bonus is we'll have students and their friends, teachers and others working or attending classes downtown, and that is sure to be an economic boost to the downtown core as it struggles to reinvent itself.

Everyone is happy with the arrangement, as well they should be, but I find myself almost wanting to pinch myself, hoping it isn't actually a dream. I mean, how long have we waited for such a major investment in our downtown core? The last one I can recall on this scale was the much-delayed MTO government office complex and new bus terminal from the mid-1990s. I still have concerns, though, and will certainly be keeping my fingers crossed that nothing else gets in the way of the new arts complex.

I do hope, and I am sure this question has been addressed at some point, that funding will continue if or when a new government might come in to replace the McGuinty Liberals at Queen's Park. We were all worried after the MTO move was announced and then the government of the day changed hands, and the NDP finally agreed to the building of the MTO complex and the employees moving down here from Toronto. That is something I am sure most people don't want to go through again with the Performing Arts Centre.

So, let's celebrate a great victory not only for the arts community but also for the downtown as a whole, as this new complex will do wonders for our beleaguered downtown core. But let's also be vigilent; making sure all committments are met and the new complex comes in on budget and hopefully also on time. Sure, it is still some time off, much as the new hospital in West St. Catharines is still some years off. But hope is a wonderful thing, and many of us in the arts community hope and pray this is the time for this new complex to finally happen.

Full steam ahead, and let's enjoy the ride!

April 24th, 2010.

3 comments:

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