The stakeholders – representing the arts, theatre, dance and music communities, along with community volunteers, Th'YARC representatives and others – were invited by the mayor and town council to an April 27 stakeholders session.
Th’YARC is located on Parade Street. There is a push underway for a new facility, with Parade Street initially viewed by Th’YARC folks as the continued location. The town, however, has expressed a desire to see a facility located downtown. Th’YARC and the town continue to discuss the matter.
Yarmouth native and architect Brian MacKay-Lyons led the stakeholders session with members of his team. He said they had been asked by the town to look at potential downtown sites. Three sites were identified: the Alma Square/Collins Street parking lot site, the old Odeon Theatre site and the tourist bureau site on Forest Street.
“The town owns the first one outright,” MacKay-Lyons said about the Alma/Collins site, where the proximity to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was identified as an asset.
As he showed photos of how a facility could be plotted on these three sites, MacKay-Lyons did remark that they have also looked at the Parade Street site.
During the evening those in attendance were divided into groups and asked to “design” an arts centre for the Alma/Collins location.
The end results contained a wide array of possibilities. Designs included green spaces, public spaces, theatre spaces, artist-in-residence spaces, youth spaces and educational spaces. People suggested a glass-covered roof over Alma Square for a more defined entry access point from Main Street to the gallery and an arts centre.
In their designs everyone incorporated the space on the south side of Alma Street (where the Vanguard’s offices are located, the building has been for sale for years) and suggested developing this area into uses that could include gallery spaces, retail shops, artist rental spaces, boutiques, even housing.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood opened the evening, saying when it comes to an arts centre location, it is important for everyone to come to an agreement and move forward together.
“I don’t think everybody is going to get everything they want, or maybe everybody will get everything they want, which is what we’re aiming for,” she said. Asked at the end of the evening how she thought the session went, Mood said, “The electricity in the room was apparent. We’ve got stakeholders who are completely invested in this. They’ve got the vision for the future and we’re just looking forward to next steps.”
Th’YARC’s president, Mitch Bonnar, was in attendance for part of the session. Asked for his thoughts on where the process stands, he said, “I think it’s a step forward. Up until this point it’s been evident to us that the town was on a track and wasn’t overly interested in negotiation. At this point they’ve come to the realization that they’re not going to get a theatre downtown unless we participate, the federal funders won’t do it.”
Th’YARC doesn’t want to see this dragged out and Bonnar said they have location options if the sides can’t come together.
“We’ve informed them that we intend to have a theatre and we're not waiting,” said Bonnar. “We’d like to participate in something they’d like to do, but we have to come to some agreements with governance and how we’re going to proceed in the future.”