The president of Th’YARC says they are willing to sit down with the Town of Yarmouth to discuss a new arts and culture centre, but says to date many issues and questions haven’t been answered to their satisfaction.
Asked to pick the top three issues, Mitch Bonnar – after an Oct. 10 meeting the town held about the arts centre – listed them in this order.
“Number one is the continuing existence of a theatre,” he said, saying the town doesn’t want to have a membership structure in place, which is something Th’YARC has.
“Number two is governance. They want to build it. They want to own it. They want to run it. They want to control it. They want to operate it and us to be tenants. That’s a big issue. Our autonomy is gone,” said Bonnar.
The third issue is location. While Bonnar said Th’YARC is not opposed to moving to another location, he said the Collins Street parking lot site the town has selected is the “worst possible location.”
Bonnar also notes that much of what is being proposed for that downtown location is included in the plans Th’YARC had drawn up for a new facility on Parade Street, where parking would not be an issue, the project cost wouldn’t be as high and everything would be on one level, he said. Th’YARC’s plan opens up the facility to a large multitude of uses, which Bonnar agrees aren’t available now, mostly due to the current size of the existing facility, he said. (Others, however, argue it is because there is a disconnect between Th’YARC and portions of the arts community.)
The current size of Th’YARC is 11,000 square feet. Plans it had drawn up for a new facility increase the size to 24,000 square feet.
Bonnar said they’ve put money back into the facility over the years, but it’s time for a replacement, he said.
And, he said, a replacement has to be what taxpayers and the community can afford – and artists too. You can’t give space away if it’s too expensive to build in the first place, he said, but high rentals won’t benefit anyone either.
He has concerns what the town is proposing will be too costly.
At last week’s public meeting the town noted it had yet to hear back from Th’YARC after having sent a June 23 letter following a meeting between the town and Th’YARC. Bonnar described that June meeting as a very cordial two-and-a-half-hour meeting where a lot of issues were brought up and discussed.
“We brought up very specific issues that need to be addressed and they seemed very receptive to all that,” he said. “What we received on June 23 was two or three pages of reiteration of exactly the way they wanted to run it in more detail, and did not answer or address issues that we had presented.
“We are not opposed to moving, but we will not be dictated to. That theatre has been there for 37 years and they’re not going to put it out business,” he said, saying they are still willing to talk with the town, but he worries the issue has become a divide and conquer scenario.
Above all, he said, there needs to be more specifics.
“They’re inviting the public but you notice 90 per cent of the questions don’t get answered,” Bonnar said. “There are no answers. That’s the problem.”