Nanaimo art gallery gets expansion approval

NANAIMO – City council earmarks additional financial support for new facility

Nanaimo’s only public art gallery is preparing to launch the first phase of its expanded downtown facility, after city council gave the nod for a new management agreement.

City council members approved a 10-year deal that will see the Nanaimo Art Gallery take over management of the Centre for the Arts building next year. The organization will also get an additional $30,000 a year in operating funding and $50,000 for the first stage of renovations in a multi-phase plan.

The  management agreement is “thrilling” according to Deborah Zorkin, president of the Nanaimo Art Gallery board, who says the organization can now get underway on its vision to turn the Commercial Street building into a top-rated facility.

The transformation is planned in three stages, beginning with the creation of an open-concept lobby and new arts education room. Other changes will hinge on funding, but will include consolidating the gallery’s campus location with the downtown one and constructing an addition.

“I believe [this vision] will happen and the city has taken the first step to make it happen,” Zorkin said. “Now we can proceed with all the hard work we’ve put in.”

The Nanaimo Art Gallery was counting on the management deal to start its redevelopment. Without it, they would have had to look for a new location to construct their dream building, Zorkin said.

The deal will give the organization an influx in operational funding, which city officials believe it will need once tenants move out of the building.

The Centre for the Arts was set up to be self-sustainable, with rent from arts groups going toward maintenance. Those groups, however, are expected to eventually find new homes as the gallery expands its facility.

The city will also take over heating and ventilation maintenance and annual elevator inspections to the tune of $3,000 to $4,000 annually.

“It works well on a number of fronts,” said Richard Harding, the city’s director of parks, recreation and culture. “[The gallery] is moving forward with their ultimate vision … [and] re-purposing an old building for the fraction of the cost of what it’d be to build a new building.”

The ownership transition from the Centre for the Arts to the Nanaimo Art Gallery will happen in the new year.

The gallery board is currently in discussion with building tenants about lease renewals and any improvements they require in the building.