written by Becka Viau
On Feb 22nd an informational forum was held at The Guild to discuss the potential transfer of the ownership of the building from the PEI Arts Council to the current facility managing non-profit ARS LONGA.
Not very many people were in attendance, however there were representatives from the PEICA and ARS LONGA board of directors as well as federal, provincial and municipal elected officials in attendance. The crowd was small but the questions and points raised were essential to growing the conversation around the evolution of the Guild as an artistic space in the Community.
Many perceive the Guild to be continuously growing and succeeding. Accomplishing substantial recognition in the arts industry, the province and the city, and really compared to 10 years ago the Guild is doing great!
So why change something that seems to be going so right?
First of all the building is OLD and repair and maintenance costs are overwhelming, and in some instances crippling to the arts programming the Guild strives to provide. The roof is in desperate need of repair and the boilers need to be replaced. These cost are far above what is available through current eligible funding. For me this is a scary fact. If the boilers were to stop working and the Guild and the PEICA had to cover the cost of such repairs the funding and programs currently provided would essentially have to stop.
So why is the Guild not eligible for the big federal dollars allocated to infrastructure?
It is really this simple: The PEICA is a fund delivering organization that owns the Guild building… but as a government money distributor they are not eligible for infrastructure funding. Plain and simple.
ARS LONGa is the facility manager but they do not own the building. If they did own the building they would be eligible for the Heritage/ACOA dollars that would ensure the sustainability of the physical building.
In conclusion, it is a fact that the federal government has changed the way in which they distribute funds to provincial and community organizations. The PEICA may have been eligible for the federal monies 10 years ago, but things have changed. It is time for the artistic community to acknowledge the governments funding requirements and work together to evolve the Guild into a sustainable space for artists on PEI.
With that said there are some issues that need to be considered before any deal is signed off on.
Currently the board for ARS LONGA is made up of 2 city representatives (meaning 2 residents of Charlottetown, not city officials) 2 representatives of the Province of PEI (meaning two residents of PEI that are appointed by the provincial government to the board) and 2 representatives from the PEICA (meaning the PEICA board appoints two of its members to the ARS LONGA board.) Will this board structure change if the ownership of the building is transferred from the PEICA to ARS LONGA?
Democratic process is extremely important to any organization that was created to serve a membership. Currently there is not much democratic process found in the structure of the ARS LONGA board. I think that their governance needs to be revisited and reworked to ensure that Island Artists have a direct voice in the workings of the Guild. For me it seems like the only way of ensuring the Building remains a grassroots art space.
Is changing the structure of the ARS LONGA board to include representatives from other Provincial arts organizations that carry a membership a better way? Is it fine the way it is with a few concessions?
I believe that it is time to work together to help evolve the Guild into a truly sustainable arts space in Charlottetown. A good way to start this process is for people to ask questions, suggest creative solutions and tangible workable solutions. The Guild and the PEICA have to change in order to keep up with the changes in public funding. So lets put our collective creative brains together and think of this as a positive opportunity to build something strong, sustainable and for us!
*** you MUST be a member of the PEICA to vote on this issue . for more information about PEICA membership see HERE
The PEICA Chair, Dr. Greg Doran, has invited members with ideas and/or concerns to write to him at any time at the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOME EXTRA INFO!! You can visit the PEICA info page HERE … you will find the governance documents from ARS LONGA some more info on the history of the Guild, building information, and a statement about this deal proposal by ARS LONGA
History of the Building: (as stated on the Guild’s website)
In February, 1994, the PEI Council of the Arts acquired the Royal Bank Building at the corner of Richmond & Queen Streets in Charlottetown, PEI, the current location of The Guild.
The intent was to convert the building from a bank into an arts/cultural centre designed to house a theatre, a gallery, studio working space for existing and emerging artists, as well as office space for the PEI Council of the Arts and other non-profit cultural organizations.
Initially, the facility was incorporated as a for-profit entity, operating as The Arts Guild, with the expectation to become financially sustainable and have the capacity to generate annual revenues that would meet its operational and capital requirements. However, throughout the 10-year period that followed, various challenges and limitations proved to be daunting to the new managers of the building therefore, the original intentions for the space were not met.
In 2004, a new non-profit corporation (ARS LONGA Inc.) was formed and a 6-member Board of Directors was appointed by the signatories of the original Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the Province of PEI, the City of Charlottetown, The PEI Council of the Arts. The new corporation currently operates as “The Guild” and runs all aspects of the building’s operations.
In July, 2005, operations of The Guild began under a new Mission and Vision set out by the Board of Directors and which directs the operation of the facility to this day.
To provide members of the cultural and arts community a vibrant, supportive, subsidized (affordable), creative space in which to develop and flourish, by providing access to the Gallery, the Theatre, office space, studio space and skilled staff.
The Guild is a facility dedicated to the support of emerging and established Island artists to assist them in producing their art and presenting it to their fellow Islanders, by providing access to subsidized space, training and support personnel.