Nanaimo Art Gallery has received city backing for an ambitious three-phase plan to consolidate and expand its operations at 150 Commercial St. in the downtown core.
Council formally approved a 10-year management agreement on Monday that will see NAG operate the downtown location, eventually relocating its Vancouver Island University gallery to the downtown location. Council also approved $30,000 in increased funding to NAG from 2014 through to 2018, plus a one-time grant of $50,000 to fund 'Phase 1' renovations to the building.
Julie Bevan, executive artistic director of NAG, said council's vote marked "a culmination of so much work our team has put in over the months and years."
"I didn't sleep very much on Sunday night," she admitted.
"We were as prepared as we possibly could have been."
The agreement will see NAG take over responsibility for the building from Centre for the Arts
Nanaimo. The first phase of a three-phase vision for the gallery will kick off in January. Bevan said renovation work will focus on converting unoccupied space in the building into a 'learning centre' for educational art programming. NAG aims to have the space ready for the March spring break. There will also be smallscale renovations to the existing lobby and exhibit area on the main floor, she said.
By 2015, NAG aims to begin 'Phase 2,' which will see other art groups currently residing in the building moved elsewhere. She said NAG intends to help the groups find new homes.
Vancouver Island Symphony is one of the current tenants sharing the building. Executive director Margot Holmes said the symphony is supportive of NAG's plans, and added the organization expects to remain in place until 2015 or 2016. Eventually, NAG plans on renovating both floors of the building and funding the project through a variety of funding sources, including provincial and federal grants and corporate sponsorship.
"Planning and looking at that is part of the work that we'll be doing next year," Bevan said.
The new, upgraded facility has the potential to be a cultural, tourism and educational gathering spot in the city, said Coun. Diana Johnstone, who chairs the parks, recreation and culture commission. Whether the facility receives increased support from the municipality in the future "remains to be seen," she said.
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