By Sue Tiffin
In honour of a recent birthday Daniel Manley hosted a fundraiser for theHaliburton Highlands Arts Centre Foundation on his social media page and quickly raised $1000 toward the new organization which aims to build a world-class performing arts centre in Haliburton County.
It’s not the only thing tohappen quickly for the HHAC Foundation. Though Manley who is chair and fellow board members Wil Andrea and Brent Wootton have been talkingwith community members about an arts centre in Haliburton County forquite some time once they sat down to get organized their visionstarted to come together faster than they expected.
The HHACF website describes that vision as “a place for concerts plays recitals opera musicals film festivals workshops and masterclasses” as well as “a rehearsing homefor community groups for our multiple choirs theatre companies windensembles folk bands opera studio and growing chamber orchestra.”
The group had planned to achieve charitable status for the Foundation by the end of the year.
“Like maybe later this year aChristmas present would be approval” said Manley. “But then in themiddle of August we’d gotten a really plainclothes letter in the mail I opened it up and it said that on Aug. 1 we’d been approved. And I hadto read it a few times because I just didn’t I thought no it’s notit’s not this easy. We would have gone through a couple of cycles of‘fix your application add this change this update this clarifythis’ and here we were. It shocked us all.”
The charitable status allows the foundation to offer donors a tax benefit and allows the organizationmore access to foundation-to-foundation funding – which will speed theproject along in first being able to fund feasibility studies andproduce marketing materials and then in raising the funds needed todesign and build the complex.
“The foundation has got quitethe journey ahead in fundraising the millions needed to build an artscentre in Haliburton County” reads the HHACF website. “But it will also be about bringing our arts community together to design and build afacility that not only meets today’s needs but looks forward to theyears of growth ahead for our region.”
Manley acknowledged the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion as a wonderful space but said thereare more features that groups organizations artists and performers are looking for both for scheduling and rehearsing and also for a “better night out experience.”
Currently there are challengesto using the space including that it is unavailable on schoolboard-designated weather event days requiring groups to relocatepractice – leaving stationary instruments behind – or cancel itcompletely on those days.
No alcohol is permitted on theproperty but some organizations and groups would like patrons to beable to buy a glass of wine during intermission.
Additionally Manley said there is interest in having a lounge and a kitchen facility to offer a sort of concession stand.
After their group saw a packagefrom a large international construction firm showcasing their ability to build art centres and music theatre centres Manley said the projectwas further kickstarted.
“We just talked about the possibilities” said Manley. “Let’s just run with it and see what happens.”
The scope of the project hasn’tbeen worked out yet and Manley said other groups and organizations will be able to offer input on what their own needs are.
He suggested beyond aperformance hall it could include a black box studio performance hallfor more intimate performances and recitals; rehearsal space separatefrom the performance halls for community ensembles choirs theatrecompanies; gallery space for visual and craft arts; affordable officespace for arts and not-for-profit administration; back of housefacilities including storage space and a set fly and a workshop for setconstruction and storage.
“We don’t want this to be ashallow place that’s only used at concert time or rehearsal time we’dlike the place to really be lived in and make it worthwhile” he said.“If these kinds of groups can call this place home then it just makesthe place more alive and more viable.”
Now instead of hoping simplyfor charitable status by the end of the year Manley said by the end ofthe year the foundation could be “drawing a line between the vision and requirements of the building as well as a dollar figure we’re lookingfor.”
In the meantime alongside donations excitement is building.
“The reception has been verygood and everybody’s very excited about it” said Manley. “All of theresponse has been very positive so far.”
For more information about the Haliburton Highlands Arts Centre Foundation to donate or get involved visit hhartscentrefoundation.ca .