By Marcia Love
There has been great interest expressed in re-establishing the Grand Theatre in town for arts and cultural purposes, but there has also been some who question the need for it.
The Maple Creek Main Street Program hosted a meeting on Oct. 15 at the Glascock Building, where the Grand Theatre Rehabilitation Feasibility Study was presented to the public. About 25 people attended the event.
The study was completed after public feedback gained through the Maple Creek Community Cultural Plan identified the restoration and use of the former Grand Theatre as a priority. It was suggested the facility could serve as a live theatre and performance venue.
The feasibility study estimated the cost of construction would be about $2.3 million, while the cost of theatre equipment — including lighting, sound and other stage equipment — would be about $279,000.
Royce Pettyjohn, Maple Creek Main Street Program co-ordinator and community development officer, explained that the Maple Creek Community Cultural Plan and the Grand Theatre Rehabilitation Feasibility Study were both supported by grant funding from SaskCulture Inc. However, the rehabilitation project will not be undertaken by the Main Street Program or the Town of Maple Creek. Instead, a group of interested individuals in the community would be required to spearhead the project.
In June 2014, a presentation was made during the Maple Creek Community Cultural Summit by representatives from Indian Head who were involved in the rehabilitation of the community’s Nighthawk Cinema to serve as the Indian Head Grand Theatre.
During last week’s meeting, Denise Wall, president of the board of directors for the Lyric Theatre in Swift Current, spoke on the huge renovation project the group undertook at the century-old theatre.
She explained the phases of the restorations that are being completed on the building, which was converted from a former nightclub to a performing arts centre after being purchased from the city by the Southwest Cultural Development Group.
Planning began in 2012 to restore the theatre in a modern way while incorporating its original features. After raising $500,000, the group was able to receive a matching federal grant for a total of $1 million to complete the work. Renovations have been done to the roof, exterior walls and interior of the building. The next phase of the project will involve restoring the front of the theatre to its former glory.
Pettyjohn noted that while Maple Creek’s population is comparable to Indian Head, the challenges faced in restoring the Grand Theatre would be similar to that of the Lyric Theatre.
A group of eight individuals with an interest in further developing the local arts community have discussed the project. Kevin Rittinger spoke on behalf of this group during the evening, explaining the wish to increase the visibility of arts and artists in the community.
Its goal is to “break down the silos” and encourage community groups to communicate and work more closely together — especially when they are working toward the same goal.
“We’ve got a group of people that do want to move ahead and work on forming an arts council and perhaps work towards the arts and culture coalition,” Rittinger stated.
He has spoken with the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils (OSAC), and he noted joining it would allow an opportunity to showcase both visual and performing arts locally. OSAC would further open the door to the process of receiving grants and establishing a facility. Becoming a member would allow a local arts council access to funding to combine art shows with community events such as street festivals, Rittinger said.
“We don’t have to start talking a $2-million theatre renovation,” he stated, adding it may start out by having a wine and cheese event, art show, and orchestra performing at a local venue such as the Jasper Centre. “Do we want to end up with a $2-3 million revived centre? It’s possible.”
One resident noted there have been many major community projects in recent years — such as the community arena and Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility — and more undertakings may create a “fundraising burn-out.”
Others questioned the need for another facility in the community to hold functions when there are already several buildings in town that serve such a purpose.
But those involved in performing arts stated at last year’s cultural summit there is a lack of facilities with architectural acoustics.
It was pointed out the theatre would need to be geared toward the culture and entertainment people in the area have a deep interest in.
Dr. Barry Thienes currently operates his optometry practice in town at the former Grand Theatre building. The feasibility study has been discussed with Thienes, who has indicated he is willing to find another location in Maple Creek to operate his business should the project become a reality in the future.
But Pettyjohn also noted while the performing arts facility feasibility study was specific to the former Grand Theatre building, the final study allows the principles to be transferable, and if the community decides to pursue the development of a performing arts facility elsewhere the plan can be adapted to use in conjunction with another facility entirely.