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New group pushing Kelowna to build new performing arts centre within next five years

Arts groups need the Kelowna Community Theatre to stay in place while a new performing arts centre is built.
June 25, 2020 - 3:00 PM

A newly formed group of business and cultural supporters wants to work with Kelowna City Hall to build a new performing arts centre to replace Kelowna Community Theatre.

They want to do that without tearing down the existing theatre and have it all done within five years.

Called the Citizen’s Committee for a new Performing Arts Centre, it’s chaired by Patricia Ainslie who, while not representing any cultural group, is the former curator of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, a strong supporter of the arts in Kelowna since 2006 and writes about Canadian art and museum studies.

“I just wanted to get moving and just see if we could get some traction from the city by getting a broader group, representative of businesses and the arts, and have some communication with the city,” Ainslie told

While she started paying attention to city plans when a call for proposals came out last fall to redevelop the old RCMP lands on Doyle Avenue, the group didn’t come together until February. It’s still very small, with eight members, and has been hampered by COVID-19 in getting organized.

Ainslie is speaking up now to express her disappointment with the City for going ahead and leasing the RCMP site rather than leaving it as a possible location for a new performing arts centre.

READ MORE: Development of the former RCMP site in downtown Kelowna moving ahead with RISE

It’s one of the few undeveloped properties the city owns in the downtown cultural district and the group is adamant that a new facility be in the cultural district.

The group is equally adamant that Kelowna Community Theatre stay open while a new performing arts centre is built since user groups fear financial collapse if it's closed.

A study, called the Collier report, went to Kelowna City Council last fall. It showed how a larger theatre could fit on the current site and suggested that other performance sites could be found during the two to three years it will take to build.

READ MORE: Options for a new Kelowna Performing Arts Centre range up to $62 million

“What the Collier report said is they, perhaps, could perform in a tent which I thought would... give some of the artistic directors in this city a heart attack,” Ainslie said.

While there may not have been heart attacks, it did motivate supporters of the arts to get active. Ainslie has written a number of letters on the subject and encouraged others to do the same.

She has also looked into alternative venues in the city, such as churches. Those that are large enough don’t have adequate supports such as large enough stages, dressing and wash rooms.

Besides, she said, they’re heavily used, especially on weekends and key times like Christmas.

While the group is still small and getting itself organized, that’s not reflective of its broad base of support, she said.

“We’ve had lots of discussions with lots of people who were enthusiastic,” Ainslie said, noting that this is too soon for the small group to formally welcome new members. She hopes that will change in the next month or so.

She also stressed that it’s their hope to develop a collaborative relationship with the City but to also make it clear a different site needs to be found.

The City’s 10 Year Capital Plan shows $67.6 million to replace Kelowna Community Theatre in 2025-27 but it’s listed as Priority 2, which means there’s no money set aside to build it.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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