/One year brings arts centre closer to feasibility

One year brings arts centre closer to feasibility

By Sue Tiffin

The past fiscal year for the Haliburton Highlands Arts Centre Foundation has been an active one, one in which the board grew from three people to eight and funding for thousands of dollars for the future has been secured. 

The HHACF, which was founded in 2018 and granted charitable status in 2019, is now into its fourth year. Its goal is the construction of a modern arts centre in Haliburton County 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. 

“The progress made to date is astounding, but if you told me four years ago that it would take this long to start a feasibility study, I’d be thrown for a loop – yet, driven even harder,” Daniel Manley, president of the foundation, told those tuning in to the AGM virtually on the evening of Oct. 21. 

That feasibility study, considered by the board to be the “the next mandatory step in the foundation’s mission,” was awarded to the team of Janis A. Barlow and Associates plus Novita Techne and Yallowega Architecture. The study could have a phased approach, allowing for a study start and pauses when funds are short.

“I think it was a really wise idea to get the consultants to have this phased approach, because the more we make this real, the more the community feels this is real, and then we’re getting more and more support and belief that we can actually make this dream happen,” said Tammy Rea, board director.  

Drew Allen, head of the HHACF planning committee, spoke to his role in helping the Richmond Hill Performing Arts Centre become a reality, noting he has “done this before,” and praised the team conducting the feasibility study.  

“I believe Janis Barlow is the most experienced consultant in theatre working today in Canada,” he said. “She is an incredible woman, her team is outstanding. They have researched, built, and studied theatres for the past 40 years across Canada in virtually every town, city and municipality. Where you can build a theatre, they have studied them, they have built them. So we have hired the best person in the country for this study.” 

When the pandemic created some setbacks, including changes to the focus of some previously available funding, the HHACF shifted too, looking toward federal funding via the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund from Canadian Heritage to help support the feasibility study.

“Unlike the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s 100 per cent funding, CCSF funds only 50 per cent of the costs of a project,” said Manley. “With total estimates around $80,000, we needed to make up the difference.”

General fundraising proved difficult due to lockdowns and public health guidance around gathering,  but local organizations have been generous after hearing of the group’s mission, said Manley, with the Rotary Club of Haliburton granting the foundation $3,000, and CanoeFM becoming the group’s founding media sponsor and pledging to donate $15,000 from Radio Bingo. The HHACF has also applied for potential funding from Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization via their Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program. Merchandise, a Giving Tuesday campaign on Nov. 30 and a soon-to-be-launched Founding Sponsor campaign offering sponsors a variety of perks including a commemorative plaque, promotion via social media and tickets to the first fundraising gala to be held in 2022 are planned to help the foundation’s efforts.

The board has presented on the HHACF’s mission to municipal and county councils, homeowner associations and service clubs throughout the county, which has resulted in letters of support and endorsements, according to Manley’s address at the AGM.

“The foundation was well received all around with people voicing agreement that the time is right for a new arts centre in Haliburton County,” he said. 

Stakeholders attending the meeting asked about a site location. A shortlist of sites will be submitted to consultants as part of the feasibility study.

Despite an active past year, the HHACF’s board isn’t slowing down.

“It’s going to be a busy fiscal year ahead with activities surrounding the feasibility study keeping the HHACF’s board well occupied,” said Manley. “With its completion planned for April 2022, we expect it to lay out the path forward into 2022-23 and beyond.”

For more information visit hhartscentrefoundation.ca.