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Oceanside Community Arts Council looking for partners

The MAC is Parksville’s hub for art. It’s not the only struggling organization, says the mayor. - Auren Ruvinsky photo
The MAC is Parksville’s hub for art. It’s not the only struggling organization, says the mayor.
— image credit: Auren Ruvinsky photo

In a presentation to Parksville city council, the Oceanside Community Arts Council asked for help in vague terms — and got what they were looking for.

OCAC is a regional organization that board member Valerie Dare said will continue to thrive, despite being chronically underfunded, but they are struggling to continue operating the McMillan Arts Centre in an old school building.

They own half the 1913 building (with the Parksville and District Association for Community Living), which OCAC president Hilary Bedigan said was recently assessed at $600,000.

Dare explained that in terms of the MAC, they “hope to change the focus from a gallery to a community arts centre model, offering more accessible space for art programs for the whole of District 69.”

“Art is not just a commodity, we see it as more like recreation through the arts,” Dare later told The News. She compared it to facilities like the Ravensong Aquatic Centre and Oceanside Place ice arena.

“They get lots of funding, it would be silly to expect those places to run on their own,” she said, adding while they are not expecting that level of funding they are hoping to move in that direction, seeing it more as a community facility.

The MAC currently has an operating budget of $60,000 a year, of which the city contributes $5,000 — one of the few organizations that is actually a line item in the city’s budget, pointed out mayor Chris Burger.

The delegation said they plan to develop many “strategic partnerships,” with other local groups like Building Learning Together, Vancouver Island University and the Errington Hall.

They want to “enhance the building as public art,” Dare said, pointing out that it is at the end of Memorial Avenue.

Asked for the amount of money they are looking for, vice-president Dave Klinger said “the first order of business is not to die for a few months.”

He said their immediate priority is simply to keep the building operating, then they will solicit more community involvement and develop longer term strategic ideas and a business plan.

“The point is, does Parksville want that building as a cultural icon in the future,” he said.

Councillor Marc Lefebvre suggested they need the help of a business leader who can give them a “reality check” on their situation, suggesting there are many available, even offering to give them names.

“Don’t be too, too hard on yourselves,” said Burger, “you’re not the only organization struggling and loosing funds.”

Burger added there is a vibrant arts scene in town and this could be an opportunity to tie in with the city’s economic development plans, since the city depends on bringing visitors and new residents in.

A recent telephone survey found that 72 per cent of respondents feel recent population growth has been about the right amount and 94 per cent support investing in arts and cultural events and facilities.

“You have a very important roll to play in our community,” Burger said, urging them to take advantage of previous offers for city staff to help with things like formal plans and complicated grant applications.

Dare said she is optimistic they are starting the conversation and developing in exciting ways.

“I like to say ‘watch this space’” she said implying there will be many exciting things at the MAC in the near future.

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