Nanaimo Art Gallery building at 150 Commercial St. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo Art Gallery building at 150 Commercial St. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo Art Gallery requesting $200,000 to upgrade its downtown space

Councillors supportive of NAG’s plans, but no decision made on increasing financial assistance

City councillors appear to be supportive of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s future plans.

On Feb. 19, the city’s finance and audit committee unanimously recommended that council direct city staffers to work with the Nanaimo Art Gallery on the next phase of the gallery’s development plan and provide the city with funding options as well as an updated co-management agreement.

An existing agreement on the art gallery’s space at 150 Commercial St. is set to expire in 2024.

Although the committee did not specifically recommend increasing annual funding, the art gallery has requested an additional $50,000 per year until 2023-24. A recent staff report notes that the Commercial Street building, which was built in the 1960s and is now the home of the Nanaimo Art Gallery, Crimson Coast Dance, Nanaimo Archives, TheatreOne and Vancouver Island Symphony, is dealing with a number of issues that fall “outside of the scope” of the art gallery’s co-management agreement with the city. Those issues, the report notes, include security, lack of accessibility, leaky faucets, failing hot water tanks and other wear and tear.

The Nanaimo Art Gallery is preparing to enter the third phase of its multi-phased development plan, which has seen the gallery merge its multiple spaces into a single space on Commercial Street and increase programming and staffing since 2013.

According to the same staff report, the gallery’s third phase includes plans to increase “organizational” capacity and community connections as well as exploring the feasibility of expanding the Commercial Street site.

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Richard Harding, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said staff support the art gallery’s plans for Phase 3 and would be happy to work with them. He also said the gallery currently receives about $160,000 per year in financial assistance from the city.

There was little discussion prior to the vote; however, Coun. Ian Thorpe said he supports making the recommendation to council, explaining that it is “necessary” in order to further support and grow the arts community.

“I think the art gallery serves a very useful function in our community and it has some real maintenance issues right now and problems that need to be addressed,” he said. “I think in the longer term … that there could be a partnership to allow for other groups to use that space and maybe even grow that space.”

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