Residents of Hope may have noticed a significant addition to the property adjacent to the Hope Art Gallery on Fort Street.
A large modular structure has found a new home on the site, after a laborious lumber down Hope’s streets and the dedicated efforts of local volunteers and supporters of the Hope and District Arts Council.
For Diane Ferguson, the executive director of the Council, it’s an addition that will breathe new life into her organization, making it possible to continue the great work of the organization in offering the residents of Hope the opportunity to express their inner artistic soul.
“We found this modular unit and had it moved here. When it’s renovated, we’ll be able to have two studios on site and move both our visual arts and pottery programs into one location. It’ll be more convenient for our clients and far more affordable for us,” Ferguson said.
“The district has donated the land adjacent to our building for an initial 10-year period. It’s wonderful.”
In addition, the Hope and District Arts Council applied for and received two grants to renovate the modular building. The council got $40,000 from the B.C. Collaborative Spaces grant (Province of B.C.) and a $50,000 grant from the BC/Canada 150 grant program.
The Hope and District Arts Council was created in 2005, when a small group of dedicated volunteers launched a series of small workshops for local residents.
Eventually, the group began getting funding from the local district council and other sources and by 2008 they were also in receipt of funding from provincial and federal sources and had gained access to their Fort Street building by the district.
“At that time we rented space in the community and started out with a visual arts program where we taught drawing and painting. Right from the beginning we have been open to all ages and have taken a special joy in getting children involved along with adults of all ages,” Ferguson said.
Soon after, the Hope and District Arts Council acquired private funding that made possible the rental of a second space on Fifth Avenue.
“We started off doing handmade pottery (that’s handcrafted without the use of a wheel) but then got funding to buy wheels and a kiln so we developed a full-scale pottery studio at that site.”
The problem was that, with two rental facilities plus the art gallery itself to maintain, the resources of the Hope and District Arts Council were being stretched thin.
When private funding ended in March of this year, they were forced to give up their visual arts studio and move those classes into a variety of spaces, including the local Baptist church, the pottery studio and elsewhere.
“We knew we couldn’t keep paying these rents, and had to look for alternatives,” Ferguson said.
One of the reasons that funds are a challenge is rooted in the decision that the Hope and District Arts Council has made to ensure that their programs are accessible to everyone.
“We operate classes that require no membership and are available for just $7. If you were to try to access the same programs privately, it would be far more expensive, but we want everyone to be able to come in and create their art at a cost they can afford.”
Beyond relying on government programs and grants and generating a limited amount of money through user fees, the arts council also operates a series of fund raising initiatives throughout the year.
“On Nov. 25 we are hosting our fourth annual Fill Your Bowl, Art Machine Fundraiser. It’s a great chance to get an early Christmas gift, meet your neighbours and have a tremendous dinner; all for only $20,” Fergusons said.
The event is held at the Eagles Hall at 386 Fort St. and starts at 6 p.m. For $20, those who attend will be able to pick out their own handcrafted pottery bowl (ideal for those Christmas treats) and will be treated to a potluck supper at the hall. All proceeds go to supporting The Art Machine community arts program, but in keeping with the spirit of the season, $1 from the sale of each bowl will go to support the Hope Food Bank.
For more information, visit hopedistrictartscouncil.com.