Students struggle to access Isabel

Isabel spaces costly outside of class projects

One Queen’s film student was asked to pay $120 to use one room in the Isabel and $500 per hour for another.
Supplied by Suzy Lamont Photography/Queen’s University

Students attempting to use spaces at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts often face large fees — at times hundreds of dollars — despite the centre’s mandate to enhance students’ skills in the arts.

The Isabel was intended as a learning space to foster the creativity of students in fine arts, film, drama and music. But those same students can encounter financial barriers when attempting to use the centre.

Stephen Trivieri, ArtSci ’16, is a film student who has worked on projects such as To The Bader, a film that explores the move into the Isabel. When Trivieri asked to screen his film this year in the Isabel’s screening room, which seats 92 people and features a state-of-the-art digital projector, he was asked to hand over $120. 

He discovered that the room’s availability is controlled by the Isabel rather than the Film Department.

“That’s a classroom. I have classes in there. But if I want to use it, the [Isabel] would have to bill the Film department, who then in turn wanted to bill me,” he said. 

The Film Department eventually agreed to front any costs that Trivieri was unable to raise through at-the-door charges. Even so, he said, the arrangement then affected the Film Department’s own yearly spending.  

“This is ridiculous! You know, they have a budget to maintain too,” he said. 

It wasn’t the first time he’s been asked for a large fee. In 2014, Trivieri was asked to pay $500 per hour to film a project in the Isabel’s rehearsal hall. 

“It’s very confusing because as a film student, I want to use a lot of the spaces, [but] in the past it’s just like pulling a tooth to get there,” he said. 

“You’d think it would be a little bit easier, especially if you are a Queen’s student and that is your faculty building.” 

Trivieri said a lot of the confusion comes from the joint ownership and jurisdiction over the centre between the City and the University. 

While Queen’s has some claim over the Isabel, it’s also intended for use by Kingston community groups — meaning that Queen’s doesn’t have full jurisdiction over its operations. 

He wasn’t the only student to express frustration. Mathew Kahansky, ArtSci ’16, was in charge of logistics for the AMS Live Music Committee. 

According to Kahansky, the committee began with a budget of “roughly $10,000” to put on their “Live at the Isabel” event. However, their available budget was “lowered at least two or three times because of more and more additional fees unexpectedly being thrown at us by the Isabel.” 

Some of the student bands, including The Wilderness, had a 15 per cent cut of their band merchandise revenue given to the Isabel even though the event organizers had paid to use the space. 

“When the budgeting issues were ongoing, some of us had half the mind to tell the Isabel to stuff it and just throw a sweet show at the Underground,” Kahansky said.

The Journal reached out to Tricia Baldwin, director of the Isabel Bader Centre, and Danielle Kimmerly, the AMS Campus Affairs Commissioner, who provided a joint email statement in response. 

“Queen’s still charges residence fees for the ongoing costs of operating the residence,” they wrote, including operation costs and the salaries of ushers, box office staff and operators. 

They didn’t provide an ownership breakdown of the Isabel, but said the benefactors included Queen’s, Alfred and Isabel Bader, the City of Kingston and others.  They instead provided a collective figure of $72 million in contributions as a whole, which they said does not include ongoing operation and event costs associated with the building. 

According to the Kingston Whig-Standard, the breakdown included $31 million from the Baders, $15 million from the federal government, $15 million from the provincial government, and the remaining from other benefactors.

Charges for the ongoing costs of operating the Isabel include fees such as the one charged for Trivieri’s film screening as well as AMS-sanctioned events like Live at the Isabel.

The latter event raised money for the AMS Isabel Bader fund — a fund intended to help students cut down costs for front of house, box office, production personnel and rental at the Isabel. 

According to the statement from Baldwin and Kimmerly, the relationship between the AMS and the Isabel is “positive and cooperative.”

They said the use of space for academic purposes in drama, music and film is booked through the School of Drama and Music or the Department of Film and Media. 

“There is no rental cost associated with these academic course-based bookings,”they wrote. 

Outside of strictly course-assigned work, charges depend on the hours of usage, the number of spaces used and the production complexity of the event, according to the statement.

Trivieri, however, says the system doesn’t foster the creativity that he’d have liked to see from the Isabel. 

“If a student wants to film something in a room and nobody’s using it — that should be encouraged. There shouldn’t be a process, we shouldn’t have to get permission from six different people.”


March 24, 2016

The Journal did not explicitly request an ownership breakdown of the Isabel.
A graphic was removed because the information presented was incomplete.
Stephen Trivieri's film is called To The Bader, not To the Isabel.

The Journal regrets the error.

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