What is the Ladysmith Arts Station?
The Arts Station is a vision of the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District (ACLD) to establish a place with versatile, accessible infrastructure to serve and celebrate the arts in our region. The Ladysmith Arts Station will feature portable structures in an inviting natural setting for arts classes and groups, a gathering space for makers collectives, offices for arts administration, and storage for events and art supplies.
Why an arts station?
The ACLD was formerly housed in a historic machine shop, and it was displaced while the building underwent necessary upgrades. The ACLD facilities at this location included the Waterfront Gallery, a gift shop, offices, artist spaces, and classrooms. The building upgrades have since been halted until additional funding can be procured by the Town of Ladysmith. In the interim, the ACLD temporarily moved to a decommissioned school building. Then, in June 2023, we opened the Ladysmith Gallery in a historic downtown building. The ACLD offices and classroom space remain in the school building for a limited term; however, the local school district may require the use of the school again in the coming years.
ACLD has grown to love the school space for its arts classroom and ample office and storage spaces, so when our term in the school building is up, we will require a new home with large classrooms, office space, printmaker studio, storage, and—dare we dream—a pottery studio.
What have we done about it so far?
With our need for space in mind, the ACLD contacted the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) in 2022 to discuss the possibility of using vacant land that runs parallel to the retired train tracks in Ladysmith to establish an arts space composed of modular units. The intended layout would be similar to the Langford Station Cultural District, which opened in May 2022.
In conjunction with that inquiry, we applied for and received a BC Arts Council Infrastructure Grant for $25,000. As of April 2023, we now have a Memorandum of Understanding where we are able to investigate using the ICF land to see if it would be suitable for the project. If it is, we have the option of a 99-year lease at minimal cost.
Our project manager, Brian Childs of Brian Childs & Company has agreed to be our consultant. He will be looking at the feasibility of a variety of structures we can put on the land, just to the south- west of the historic machine shop building, next to the railway tracks. With survey results in hand, and understanding of the ACLD’s specific infrastructure needs, we will be looking at Seacans, ATCO trailers, older buildings, new custom builds, mobile units, and other suitable structures.
What if the machine shop upgrades are completed?
It is the long-term intention of the ACLD to return to the historic machine shop building. In addition to reopening the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery there, the space will also be ideal for artist studios, additional display space, and classrooms. There is currently no available rentable studio space for artists in Ladysmith. Should the machine shop be completed and we move back, the additional space at the Ladysmith Arts Station will continue to be an asset to the community and will continue to serve artists and arts patrons. This whole development will also tie in to the Town of Ladysmith’s proposed Art and Heritage Hub in that area perfectly. We understand the economic benefits of this project for Ladysmith’s business community, the arts community, tourism and for diversification and inclusivity.
Why do we need to have a space in the community?
The ACLD has been part of this community for the last 20 years. According to research done in 2019, the arts on Vancouver Island contribute more than $6 million yearly to the GDP. Our business community, when asked, agreed that the ACLD plays a role in attracting tourism, residents and workers to the area, creating networking opportunities and making the community a better place to live. Coming to our events, visitors spend on average $60 on services in town. We not only serve the community by providing space for creativity and learning, but we also provide employment to our staff and the many artists that teach courses as part of our offerings.
Here is a snapshot:
Office space : 4 Employees working on average 20 hours per week. A steady flow of summer students and other part timers. A very active board. Working on shows, events, classes, publications etc.
412 people attending classes per year
41 arts courses offered per year
24 arts instructors contracted
$3000 in subsidies for childrens’ art classes
Print Studio: We own two presses; one is still in the machine shop building, and we would like to be able to use it. Printmakers regularly use the print studio space.
Pottery Studio: A pottery studio is an often mentioned wish of our members. This will improve our offerings and engage a larger sector of the community.
How will this project proceed?
After the initial consultation with Brian Child and our investigation of possible structures, we will have a solid idea of the best structures for the site and for our use. We will apply for infrastructure grants as they become available both federally and provincially for this development. With the help of our community, we will launch a capital campaign in the middle of 2023, allowing members of our community to actively participate in the success of this project. The development can be phased in over time, starting with a classroom and office space. With ACLD members, our business community, and strong grant applications, we will make this a reality!
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