A focus group including youth recreation programmer Jordan Wiebe (in hat) and architect Craig Taylor (at right) discuss the planned expansion of arts space at the South Surrey Recreation Centre on April 3.

A focus group including youth recreation programmer Jordan Wiebe (in hat) and architect Craig Taylor (at right) discuss the planned expansion of arts space at the South Surrey Recreation Centre on April 3.

The art of expansion

Focus groups discuss design of a planned expansion of arts space at the South Surrey Recreation Centre

Stakeholders in the arts on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – and members of the general public – had an opportunity to add to their wish lists Tuesday for the South Surrey Recreation Centre’s art space expansion.

The City of Surrey – as part of its Cultural Plan – has approved a 4,000 square-foot addition to the recreation centre, which will contain an office space for Semiahmoo Arts, a board-room sized meeting space for arts groups, a pottery studio and a large multi-purpose art studio for everything from exhibitions, workshops and courses to film showings and rehearsals.

But arts services manager Sheila McKinnon said Tuesday it’s only the first phase of planned expansion of arts space in South Surrey, which, in the second phase, would include part of a multi-use public-private partnership development for city owned property at 19 Avenue and 152 Street.

This could add as much as 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of space geared more to the performing arts, she said, possibly using a flexible ‘black box’ theatre model with seating that could be retracted to provide an even larger open space for some kinds of events.

“In comparison, (all of) Surrey Arts Centre is 54,000 square-feet,” she said, adding that the performing arts component is to be designed by Bing Thom, architects for the new City Centre Library.

But McKinnon said the first phase was already attracting a lot of interest, including well attended invitation-only focus group meetings Tuesday that covered adult, family and youth use of the expanded arts space at the Recreation Centre (a public open house was also held that evening).

“Everybody has the feeling it is long overdue,” McKinnon said. “It will be well-used space.”

She said the aim is to complete the consultation and design process “before council breaks for the summer.”

Provided tenders are received and a contract approved by July, the project could be in the ground by fall, she said, which would mean occupancy toward the end of 2013.

The overall expansion of the centre also includes fitness and other recreation facilities, with an occupancy target for that component of the end of January 2014.

Craig Taylor, president of Taylor Kurtz Architecture and Design, which has been commissioned to plan the arts space expansion, personally met with stakeholders in the focus groups to get a feel for what potential users would like to see included in the space.

At an afternoon group devoted to youth use of the expanded facility, which may include a youth lounge, Taylor heard input on everything from colours and the possibility of youth created-murals, to WiFi access that would allow young people to more easily share ideas in art and music through laptop computers.

There was also suggestion that multi-purpose space in the facility would also allow room for young musicians to jam and record informally, and also for emerging talents to participate in ‘open mic’ style events.

A suggestion from the adult focus group of a formalized outside performance space could definitely work well for youth uses, he said.

“What I’m hearing is you definitely want it to have room for self-expression,” he said.

Niamh Tracey, representing Semiahmoo Arts, said a youth lounge could definitely be designed to encourage expression.

“We’d like to see it getting people to be interested in the arts side, and a little more aware of it,” she said.

Jordan Wiebe, youth recreation programmer at the centre, said following the meeting he was “excited about the potential” of the expansion.

 

“I love to see public art as part of something like this and I want to see what people come up with.’