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Group asks city for arts centre in Centennial Park

Semiahmoo Arts’ decision to close its Windsor Square offices and gallery on July 31 may just turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Executive director Patrick Reynolds said last week the organization is in the process of reinventing itself, and working with both the City of White Rock and the City of Surrey to find a way to have a foot – and perhaps an office – in both areas.

He pointed out this would fulfill the continuing mandate of the organization, formerly known as the Community Arts Council of White Rock and District.

And Reynolds said he and Semiahmoo Arts president Barbara Cooper planned to appear before White Rock council July 25 (after Peace Arch News deadline) to pitch a new idea – a ready-made arts centre for the community in the vacant Mel Edwards building in Centennial Park.

“It would fit in well with the new Centre for Active Living,” he said, noting the old building, originally slated for demolition, now appears to have been retained by the city as a storage facility.

“We’d like to get it for our member groups and have an office there,” Reynolds said, adding that re-purposing the building would also fulfill one of the city’s avowed goals – of creating an arts centre.

“It seems like it would be quite an easy solution for this,” he said, adding that groups represented by Semiahmoo Arts would not be discouraged by the run-down condition of the building.

“Artists like that kind of thing – we just need a space to work,” said Reynolds, who is a painter, sculptor and graphite artist.

Closure of the current gallery and office space was necessitated by recent changes to B.C. Gaming Fund formula, which slashed Semiahmoo Arts’ annual grant substantially, Reynolds said.

“There could be a lot of positives coming out of it,” he said. “My ultimate goal has always been to get the arts council out in the community more, and this would give us a fresh start to do more stuff and re-invent yourself, which you have to do in these economic times.”

But Reynolds said he still feels that gaming grants are in serious need of review by the provincial government, adding he hopes that Premier Christy Clark’s promises of reform to the grant structure – on which many arts groups have depended – aren’t too late in the day.

“The gap between the amount of revenue that is being made from gaming and the amount of disbursements to different groups that it was originally intended to help has become incredible,” Reynolds said.

“They are putting it into other revenue streams.”

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