Anyone who has received an eviction notice knows the range of emotions one goes through at the thought of having to leave their home.
The volunteer members of the Summerland Community Arts Council, a registered non-profit organization, are currently dealing with this same situation.
The building they have renovated and occupied for the past 16 years has been sold by the District of Summerland.
Although the district has allocated funds to help them relocate, it has not proved to be that simple.
“It’s been a really tough slog for the steering committee,” said Sue Gibbs, a long-time volunteer with the organization.
One of the members on this committee is the council’s president, David Finnis.
“It’s not just physically relocating us; it’s ensuring that the people doing it don’t get burned out,” he said.
The other conundrum the arts council faces is how to carry on with the many programs it is already committed to this year.
“We have a whole range of things happening this calendar year that just happen to fall smack in the middle of it all, so on top of trying to run programs we are now trying to find a house,” explained Finnis. He also mentioned the artist in residence, Margot Stoltz, who was to be in the building’s basement studio until the first of September as being the “first casualty.”
“I know myself with the artists; I sign a contract with them the year before their shows,” Gibbs said. “It is a legal contract. Now I have to contact them and say, guess what guys, we don’t know where we’re going to be and if your show is even going to happen.”
No matter what the difficulties this group of volunteers are facing, Gibbs said,
“We’re going to keep soldiering on until we all drop. We believe it is important. The alternative is unthinkable to us.”
And what may that alternative be?
“The alternative is to shut down,” Finnis said. “It is tempting to say we’re just folding. The challenge here is not to succumb to the negativity after the initial shock. If we suddenly are all overwhelmed and stop, the building will get bulldozed, there will be no gallery. There will be no street banners, no Summer Arts Program for kids, no Art Walk with art in 40 different businesses down town, no Season’s Sparkles for people to come to during the Festival of Lights.”
The arts council is grateful to the District of Summerland for recognizing that arts and culture are important to both the quality of life and the economic activity of the community. It is also their wish for those responsible in the decision making process to come and see what they do and to gain a greater understanding of their needs.
“We don’t want to be part of a downward spiral. We actually think we could be more of an upward spiral if we were incorporated into what happens in the community,” said Finnis.
Gibbs is hoping for a multi-millionaire to come forward.
“I have a wonderful dream. We have this packing house sitting there and I could see that having the library, the museum, the art gallery, an intimate theatre, a dance studio. There’s all that parking space and the loading docks for theatre stuff. It is huge money but we could turn this town into an art oasis,” she said.
As it stands now, the deadline for the arts council to have vacated the building is June 30. The last showing scheduled to be hung in the gallery is called, Our Journey Ends Here, which is “incredibly prophetic,” Finnis mused.
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.