Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Arts are on the move in downtown St. Catharines

If you need any reminders things are moving ahead on our two arts venues in downtown St. Catharines set to open shortly, they came in a flurry of press releases from both Brock University and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre this week.

The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts is set to open this September, and in fact staff are beginning to move in now.  The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre will also be opening this fall, with work continuing at a brisk pace throughout the summer months.

First let's look at the Performing Arts Centre.  Online job boards started listing positions open for staff needed to help run the facility, and you can also volunteer to help out at various events at the PAC as well.  Just go to the City of St. Catharines website and you'll fine links to information if you want to become a volunteer starting this fall.

It was also announced this week the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre will present its inaugural HOT TICKET professional entertainment season with help from the Government of Canada in the form of $ 50,000 in funding.  The investment will assist the PAC in bringing over 75 music, dance and theatre performances to the new facility, as well as assist in providing accessible engagement initiatives through workshops, school concerts, master classes and other dynamic community forums.

MP Rick Dykstra delivered the news at the PAC site on St. Paul Street this past Thursday, and everyone was all smiles at the news.  That increases the federal government's total investment in the project, but this particular funding is provided through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund (CAPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.  The whole idea behind CAPF is to give Canadians access to a variety of professional artistic experiences in their own communities.

The FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre is scheduled to announce its very first HOT TICKET season on July 21st, and we'll be sure to report on the news in this space shortly afterwards.  But doesn't it seem rather odd after all these years to be referring to the upcoming HOT TICKET season someplace other than at the Centre for the Arts at Brock University?  Certainly does to me!

Speaking of Brock, they are on the move downtown as well.  Earlier this week, moving vans started arriving at the University in order to move the Faculty of Humanities departments to the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts facility downtown, set to open in September.

The collective move will involve the departments of Dramatic Arts, Music and Visual Arts, and the Centre for Students in Arts and Culture.  The big move began this past week and will continue until this Tuesday, June 30th.  In all, three 34-foot moving vans and a specialty piano truck will be heading up and down the hill on Glenridge until the move is completed.

Brock sent out a list of what will be in those big moving vans this week, and included are over a thousand moving boxes, over 50 computers, a green screen, a printing press and no less than 17 upright, grand and electric pianos.  Oh, and let's not forget about the eight-foot long harpsichord.

Sounds like fun, right?  And you thought moving your parents from their home to a small condo was fun...I've done that, and this sounds like a well-organized plan designed to minimize aggravation and things going missing.

Finally, an official address was named for the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts this week, and it has a fair amount of significance attached to it.  The Brock venue, which includes the old Canada Hair Cloth Company, was located at 198 St. Paul Street for more than a century when the main entrance was on the north side of the building.  But now with the main entrance moving to the south side of the renovated and expanded building, Brock felt an address change was in order.

The City of St. Catharines agreed to grant the campus the address of 15 Artists' Common, referring to the small laneway that comes off of Ice Dogs Way near McGuire Street.  According to Carol Merriam, Interim Dean, the Faculty of Humanities, the new address holds special significance for the University.

Merriam notes the 'Common' derives from the Latin communis, meaning something shared or held by a community together.  Since one of the goals of moving the School to a downtown location is to share the work of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts with the larger community, the word common seems especially relevant.  What's more, Merriam says "common also indicates a meeting place where the community comes together - again, something that Brock is striving to create here."

Then there's the significance of the number 15:  the number commemorates both the year the building opened, and the original $15 million gift to Brock University from Marilyn I. Walker, which made the move possible in the first place.  So you see, lots of thought has gone into the actual address and why the change was needed.

With all this activity happening all of a sudden, are you starting to feel the excitement shared by both the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre?  I certainly am.

Enjoy your weekend!

June 27th, 2015.

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