Lauren Semple is the new general manager of the OV Arts Centre, formerly the Harbour City Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Lauren Semple is the new general manager of the OV Arts Centre, formerly the Harbour City Theatre. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Harbour City Theatre undergoes renovations, re-opening as ‘OV Arts Centre’

Longtime GM Dean Chadwick retiring, to be succeeded by artist Lauren Semple

Nanaimo’s Harbour City Theatre has a new name, a new look and a new general manager.

On June 17 the Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society and the City of Nanaimo, which owns the building and co-manages it with the HCTAS, announced in press releases the completion of five months and $472,000 worth of city-funded renovations to the building exterior, including new brickwork and lighting. The theatre will now be known as the OV Arts Centre, a nod to Old Victoria Road.

Along with the changes to the building is a change in management. After eight years at the helm, Dean Chadwick is retiring as general manager and will be succeeded by Lauren Semple, one half of the muralist duo Humanity in Art. She’s been on the HCTAS board for the past four years and has been involved in local theatre since she was a teenager.

Chadwick said he’s stepping down from the position, but remaining on the board, because “it seems like the right time for new things to happen.” He said he has confidence in his successor.

“Lauren and I have been friends for years and I am thrilled with her taking on this position,” he said. “I’m excited about the new concepts of where the building can go and as the OV Arts Centre it’s going to be an incredible and fun time with her at the helm.”

Semple said the HCTAS went with the name change because they wanted a shorter, less descriptive name to “build its own brand and presence around.”

“The change to ‘arts centre,’ whereas before it was ‘theatre,’ is really a move to help support the new strategic direction of the alliance, which is to increase multidisciplinary use and welcome greater diversity of art forms into the space,” she said. “So not just a focus on the performing arts anymore.”

The venue has been closed for the past year and a half and Semple said her immediate focus is on preparing to re-open post-pandemic, with the aim of having spectators filling the theatre’s 96 seats by September. Now that the exterior upgrades are complete, Semple will begin applying for grants to spruce up the interior. She’s hoping to improve the building’s accessibility, install new, retractable seating and create space for visual art exhibitions.

“Dean has given the theatre a really great start but the building has a lot of potential and a lot of possible room for further growth,” Semple said. “And so that’s really what excited me about the role and getting to work with the OV, because I think that through more collaboration and community building with other arts organizations the space can continue to be a gem to the Nanaimo arts community.”

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