New arts facility on the West Shore taking shape

Society hopes it will appeal to gamut of artists

A local group is hoping to establish a home for arts on the West Shore, with the construction of a multi-million dollar facility.

In recent years, the Juan de Fuca Performing Arts Centre Society has been working on plans to build a performance hall for everything from garage bands to the opera to perform. The facility, which would serve residents from Victoria to Duncan, would include rehearsal space, a gift shop with local arts and crafts for sale, and the lobby would function as an art gallery. There would also be an outdoor gathering space.

But, according to society secretary David Stocks, the facility will be much more than a performance space and will serve a gamut of artists.

“The life of a community in my view requires a healthy mind and a healthy body. The body parts are looked after, we have the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre, we have lots of hockey rinks and sports fields, we have good libraries,” said Stocks, noting the society has roughly 35 members including artists, musicians, and singers.

“But what we don’t have is a performance venue for everything from garage bands to opera, ballet and orchestra. There isn’t a real home for arts and culture with proper green rooms and rehearsal spaces.”

The idea for an arts facility originated roughly 15 years ago when representatives from a number of arts groups began discussing the need for a performance hall for those living in the western communities.

The West Shore Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey which said area residents were in support of a West Shore performing arts centre, and in the spring of 2013, the City of Colwood hired a theatre expert to produce a report on the need for a performance centre, types of spaces a centre should include, an architectural concept and a business plan.

In recent years the society has become a registered charity, and has worked closely with the West Shore Arts Council with the goal of bringing the facility to fruition.

And support has been growing. Stocks said there are four consultants who have thrown their support behind the project.

But before more can be done, a two-acre site must be secured. The society has assessed roughly 15 sites on the West Shore, and has narrowed it down to four, which are located in Colwood and Langford.

Stocks hopes the theatre will be roughly 350 seats to start, with the ability to add a balcony and 300 seats.

Stocks estimates such a project could cost roughly $30 million, which he hopes will be funded through grants, foundations, businesses, and individual donors. The facility must also be revenue neutral, which is why the society hopes to incorporate affordable housing and commercial space, including music and ballet schools, a restaurant and an instrument repair shop, to help cover the operating costs.

While Stocks acknowledged there is a performance hall at the new Elements Casino in View Royal and theatres at both Belmont and Royal Bay secondary schools, he noted they don’t offer the same space for local artists.

“It’s long overdue. Everybody is building new sports arenas and it’s time for the other half of the brain to get involved. The West Shore needs this,” Stocks said. “The theatre is just one part of it … We’re at a tipping point. It’s time to fish or cut bait, as they say.”

For more information on the society visit jdfartscentre.ca.


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kendra.wong@goldstream gazette.com

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