Downtown arts centre advocated
By Becky Somerville
If you build it, they will come. At least that is the view of some people advocating the building of a visual and performing arts centre in downtown London.
A group of Western students in the faculty of visual arts brought a panel of five to Delaware Hall yesterday to discuss the need and the potential for a cultural voice in the heart of the city.
As part of an arts and activism project, Molly McCoubrey, a fourth-year visual arts student and an organizer of the event, said the idea for the panel was to provide an open forum to address the possibility of combining a visual arts centre with a performing arts centre.
The idea was to promote discussion, said Ruth Choma, another organizer of the panel and fourth-year visual arts student. "The next step is to put pressure on city hall," she added.
The group circulated a petition to those in attendance stressing to the city that a visual and performing arts centre was needed in the downtown area. They plan to present the petition, along with a plan of action to city hall, to see if they will accept it as a sign of support, McCoubrey said.
Ward 2 councillor Joe Swan was the only invited panelist who did not attend the discussion.
John Fleming, planner for the City of London, said an arts centre was an interesting concept, but the city has many other plans with a higher priority. "It's a good idea but there are many more," he said. "There's no silver bullet project."
Chair of the London Downtown Business Association, Lindsay Elwood, said he would be pushing to see some of the city's projects come to fruition. "We're in favour of all projects," he said. "In order for downtown to thrive there has to be activity."
Elwood said the project which would have the biggest impact on the downtown would be a multi-entertainment complex big enough for sporting events, indoor attractions and recreational and professional hockey.
"We would view a performing arts centre as a number 2 or number 3 priority," he added.
Debra Bray, co-chair of the Arts Project, said a centre for the arts is needed in London and would require a one-time capital investment of under a million dollars from the city.
"We need a small investment for a big impact," Bray said. "We see there is a potential here in London that's really being missed."
Marla Wolfe, chair of the Arts Centre Today, agreed with Bray on the fact there is not enough performance space in London. She added London is the only major city in Ontario without an arts centre.
George Georgopoulos, of the multi-purpose entertainment complex committee, said arts-related activities could be accommodated in his ideal concept of an entertainment complex. "This is the only thing that will get people downtown," he said.
McCoubrey said some good ideas were tossed around at the meeting. "We wanted to show there was a student voice interested in a centre downtown," she said.