Queen’s to break ground on new creative arts centre

85 per cent of funds already secured for multi-million dollar facility

Film and media studies department head Clarke Mackey says the new centre will encourage collaboration between the creative arts.
Film and media studies department head Clarke Mackey says the new centre will encourage collaboration between the creative arts.

On May 13, the University announced it will break ground on a $63 million arts centre set to open in downtown Kingston in 2011 once it receives building approval from the city.

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, which will house a concert hall, studio theatre, art gallery and film screening room, will largely be funded by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

The federal and provincial governments have pledged half of the eligible costs of the project, up to a maximum of $15 million each. Federal funding comes from the Building Canada 2007 plan, which allotted $2 billion to post-secondary institutions for maintenance and construction projects, and provincial funding comes from the $32.5 billion pledged for infrastructure over the next two years in Ontario’s most recent budget.

The centre will also be funded in part by an $18 million donation from Queen’s benefactors Alfred and Isabel Bader and a $6 million donation from the City of Kingston.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the University will fundraise the remaining $9 million.

“I think the case becomes very appealing to donors because of the funding already in place,” he said. “We have 85 per cent of the funds required to build this project.”

Deane said that, unlike the Queen’s Centre project, the arts centre won’t use any funds from the University’s operating budget.

“From it’s original construction, the Queen’s Centre included the cost of borrowing as part of its costs,” he said, adding that interest on the project loans comes out of the operating budget. “It’s a different situation here.” Deane said building plans are still being finalized but he hopes the centre will become the home for the drama, film and music departments.

“These are facilities the University needs,” he said. “In the same way we would try to improve the quality of performance spaces on campus, which are insufficient to begin with, now we have the opportunity to have construction that’s almost fully funded from outside.”

Deane said the centre may be rented out to visiting performers, but it will primarily be used by students and local artists.

“The vision for the centre has always been that it should be a cultural asset to the University and a teaching asset for those departments, but also that it will be a place where the artistic work of the University meets the artistic activity of the community,” he said.

Clarke Mackey, film and media studies department head, said his department will move into the centre when it’s completed.

“We’ve been in the same building for 40 years, and it’s just a big old house on Stuart Street,” he said. “We don’t have a production studio and we don’t have a building that’s really appropriate for the kind of work that we do.”

Mackey said the centre will allow for better collaboration between the creative arts faculties at Queen’s.

“Music students, for instance, will be doing sound and music for films, and there will be video components to drama productions and that sort of thing,” he said.

Mackey said he hopes the centre will make the campus more arts-friendly.

“Maybe this is controversial, but to some extent the arts has been a kind of frill,” he said, adding that he thinks Queen’s is known for its business and science programs. “It’s very exciting to us and, I think, extremely important that Queen’s make a statement that the arts is just as important as these other things.”

Mackey said he thinks the centre may boost the University’s revenue in the long run.

“If we have this really fabulous arts centre down by the lake, it’s going to generate a lot of excitement on the part of students, on the part of the faculty and on the part of the community,” he said, adding that the University likely won’t repeat the mistakes of the Queen’s Centre project.

“After the Queen’s Centre mess, the University has made it very, very clear to us that a shovel will not go in the ground until 100 per cent of the money is in the bank.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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