A groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at the Shops at Morgan Crossing marked the emergence of Surrey as Arts Umbrella’s first out-of-Vancouver home.
A 5,000-sq.-ft. facility, fronting a courtyard next to Steve Nash Sports, is due to open in September.
The Granville Island-based non-profit arts education centre – which provides both tuition-based and free-of-charge arts programs for children and teens – is also building a second 1,300-sq.-ft. location in Central Surrey.
The organization has been working with Surrey School District to provide free arts programming for children in vulnerable neighbourhoods since 2009, with outreach programs based at Lena Shaw Elementary and Mary Jane Shannon Elementary.
The new facilities represent an expansion of tuition-based programs into Surrey, positioning Arts Umbrella as a key player in arts education in the city.
But president and CEO Lucille Pacey said following the ceremony it was not Arts Umbrella’s intention to duplicate the activities of successful programs already in the area.
Instead, the Morgan Crossing facility’s first six-month startup phase will focus on creative movement, drama, dance and visual arts programs for children aged two to five, after which it will add visual arts classes – including painting, drawing, three-dimensional and digital art – plus theatre and creative movement programs for older children and teens up to the age of 19.
“The components we’re not bringing are our full dance and music programs,” Pacey said. “There’s a very strong dance community in Surrey, for example. We respect that and feel the needs are being met.
“We’re not here to compete – we’re here to complement and add value.”
Rio Tinto Alcan executive Richard Prokopanko, who is also chair for Arts Umbrella’s board of directors, said that Surrey seemed to be the logical destination for expansion of operations.
“All our demographics showed us this would be the most beneficial move,” he said following his remarks during the ceremony, in which he recognized the City of Surrey’s pro-active role in encouraging Arts Umbrella to come to the community.
The city was represented at the groundbreaking by Mayor Dianne Watts – who said Surrey “looks forward to a long and fulfilling relationship” with Arts Umbrella – and Coun. Barbara Steele.
Watts said after the ceremony that bringing Arts Umbrella to Surrey is in keeping with the city’s pro-arts stance, which includes initiatives to expand the South Surrey Recreation Centre to provide arts space, possible development of a new arts facility in South Surrey, a potential performing arts centre, and the recent opening of a renovated fire hall as the Newton Cultural Centre.
“We’ve got a very vibrant arts community throughout the City of Surrey,” Watts said, “but it’s never gotten the profile it rightly deserves.”
She said the city’s cultural plan has been emphasizing major funding for the arts at a time that other levels of government have been cutting back support.
“We have the need for arts and culture, not just for the development of children, but also in economic development as well.”
Among others present at the ceremony were musician and educator Sal Ferreras, chair of the Surrey task force for Arts Umbrella, Patty Sahota representing the board of directors of Westminster Savings Credit Union, which has made a three-year funding commitment to Arts Umbrella, and Bank of Montreal district manager Teresa McFadden, who announced a contribution of $150,000 to help back the Surrey expansion.