Arts community expected to raise $1M+ for arts center: Murphy

Cornwall Coun. Dave Murphy, seen here in an April 2018 file photo, believes the arts community should be expected to raise a significant amount of cash for the future Cornwall Arts and Culture Center. He estimates the fundraising should be in the order of $1 million to $1.6 million. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall councillor says somebody needs to be a fundraising figurehead for the future Cornwall Arts and Culture Center, similar to what Scott Lecky did during the Benson Center fundraising campaign.

“We had to raise $2 million at the time, we ended up with $2.7 million – about 25 per cent of our project,” Coun. Dave Murphy said during Monday night’s council meeting. “Why are we not looking towards the arts community for a leader to do that as well? And (we’re) talking in similar percentages.”

A study by city staff suggests renovating the former bank site at 159 Pitt Street will cost $4-6 million.

“I’ve been told by the arts community several times over the last several years they have that money. They can find those revenues to help offset those costs because the taxpayer should not be on the hook for the entire facility once we do those complete renovations,” Murphy said.

CAO Maureen Adams said she and Coun. Elaine MacDonald have had “some discussions” with arts community members.

Adams believes they are “getting ramped up” and are “getting prepared to take on a fairly aggressive fundraising campaign.”

Murphy says council needs to “quell the taxpayers” and let them know the money will be there. “I think it will be. I really do believe the arts community will come together on this and come together in a big way, but we have to prove it.”

Based on similar percentages that were raised for the multi-pad arena, Murphy said the amount won’t be “peanuts” – $1-1.6 million – “would be what I would expect” and the city needs to be “equal and fair with this.”

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy says the taxpayers shouldn’t “have the feeling they’re going to get stuck with the whole bill.”

While saying she doesn’t have the “big answers,” Coun. Elaine MacDonald said the “arts community isn’t waiting” and donations have been collected.

There’s already $3,300 in a city-managed trust fund for the arts center – money collected from the community where the corporation issues a tax receipt.

“If we’re going to go with a comparison with the Benson Center, let’s not forget that we’ve had a history of hockey arenas in this city since the 1920s when the Si Miller was built. That was a replacement facility. This is starting from scratch,” she said.

Council passed the plan to have the former Bank of Montreal location on Pitt Street used for an election headquarters for Oct. 22 where people will be able to see the inside of the building.

During the summer, city officials plan to go on a fact-finding mission and look at similar facilities where historic buildings have been turned into arts centers. Architects have already done significant amount of work but the city may want to “steal some ideas,” said Mark Boileau, the city’s general manager of planning.

Coun. Bernadette Clement says the city needs to “put out some more information…a basic primer” on what it will look like before October.

Also with the bank location, Coun. Elaine MacDonald also asked for the building to be open during monthly art tours. Her request will come back at next month’s council meeting.