At a special presentation during the Committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 5, NACC’s executive and artistic director, Ben Nind, brought forth the idea to council on converting the current fire hall, which is set to be demolished, into a dedicated arts and cultural centre.
The centre has tried for years to start a dialogue with former administrations beginning when NACC was looking for a venue for seasonal shows.
Nind said that when it was mentioned that the fire hall would be demolished to make room for a public recreation, the centre immediately saw the opportunity to grow a thriving arts community.
“I always say build it and they’ll come,” said Nind.
“Hay River was the first community to partner with NACC for seasonal performances. An insane and very brilliant idea of holding an International Lute Festival has put Hay River on the map in a way that a normal community strategist may not have thought possible.”
In his presentation, he detailed several former fire hall structures and how they’ve been converted into successful venues for a wide array of arts and culture from dance to fine arts.
“They have high ceilings, immense space to be able to move stage and gallery pieces, they’re usually in a central location, and to renovate them is very cost efficient over a new building,” said Nind.
Other than the benefit to the growing the arts community, there could be huge economic benefits and this is evident by how much money is coming in from current programming.
NACC brought programming into Hay River five years ago and the reception and programming has grown substantially.
“For every dollar invested you get $2.70 back; that’s a proven fact,” said Nind.
As well, the federal government will fund 75 per cent of the cost to retrofit a building from heritage funds.
But the current plans for the future include demolishing the fire hall and instead converting part of it for park space, and a large part to be designated for a new town hall.
As well, the current fire hall structure has been deemed unfit for use.
But plans can be fiddled with, and structures in several of the buildings in Nind’s presentation were deemed unfit for use, including the Brockville Arts and Culture Centre built in 1958—it had also been condemned at one point.
Nind’s parting thoughts for council were to consider the health of the community and the town’s potential of becoming another type of hub for the entire region.
He said if council couldn’t fit a building remodel into its plans then maybe it should consider incorporating a space into the new town hall.
“This particular community has potential of hosting great events and it’s broken ground already,” said Nind. “Here in the South Slave there is a huge demand for art space and outlet both amateur and professional. You have demand, you already have initiative stated, all you need is place all you need is flow.”
Mayor and council were very receptive to the proposal but still have to consider whether the property is viable.
As it stands the plans to have the old fire hall vacated as early as 2013. Council wants to move sooner.
“Let’s not wait till we hit to bottom of the barrel before we re-establish ourselves as a hub,” said Coun. Kevin Wallington.
“We’ve been a hub of transportation and I believe we can be a hub for arts and culture.”