By Chad Ingram
The Township of Algonquin Highlands is supporting a grant application by the Haliburton Highlands Arts Centre Foundation for money for a feasibility study for a would-be state-of-the-art performing arts centre in the county.
Councillors heard from Dan Manley, president of the foundation, which was founded in 2018 and granted charitable status in 2019. Its goal is the construction of a modern arts centre in the Haliburton Highlands that would include an acoustically engineered performance space large enough to house an orchestra, a secondary theatre for smaller events, acoustically isolated rehearsal spaces, a centralized box office for performing arts events, and a lobby where alcoholic beverages could be served.
Currently larger arts performances take place at the Northern Arts Performing Arts Pavilion at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, where the sale of liquor is not permitted.
“That’s been a tipping point,” Manley said. “Especially at the high school, you can’t have a drink, it’s just not permitted on school property. So it would be nice to have a full, night-out experience, where you would be able to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer between acts.”
“A reunified box office,” Manley said, “so that we can all take advantage of one website, one ticketing system, so we have all these shows that are centralized that way. We don’t have to worry about calling a number of different organizations to figure out who’s got tickets and how they’re sold.”
As Manley noted, the stage at the pavilion is too small to house an orchestra-sized group of performers, or to really allow dancers to fully strut their stuff.
The proposed main performance hall at a new facility would seat 350 to 500 people, and a second “black box” theatre 150. It’s proposed the facility would be used for performances and rehearsals by local arts groups, house office space for those groups, and have a workshop where sets could be built on-site. Currently, sets for shows that are part of the Highlands Summer Festival, for example, are constructed in the industrial park in Haliburton, then deconstructed and carted to the high school, where they are then reassembled. Manley also noted that a large theatre would allow the opportunity to bring larger acts to the community.
Council unanimously agreed to the letter of support.
“I remember the tremendous effort and fundraising from the community that went into the creation of the Northern Arts Performing Arts Pavilion, and you’re absolutely right, I’ve attended many events there, and there are some challenges,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “What’s really exciting is that we’ve seen enough growth in the community over that many number of years, that we now have the calibre and number of performances to offer this opportunity, so thank you for picking that up, and continuing to move it forward.”
It’s estimated a feasibility study will cost $75,000.