Cornwall Arts Center advocates divided?

Cornwall Parks and Recreation General Manager Jamie Fawthrop makes a presentation to council on Monday, June 24, 2019 on the future Cornwall Arts and Culture Center. Fawthrop says different arts groups already have opposing viewpoints on what they want to see in the center on Pitt Street. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – It appears different sectors of the arts may be taking sides in what they want to see inside the future Cornwall Arts and Culture Center.

Cornwall Recreation General Manager Jamie Fawthrop gave an update to council Monday night on their fact-finding tour of various black-box theaters across Eastern Ontario.

During his report, Fawthrop indicated that there would be a “tough decision to make” on the amount of theater seating – 150 or 200 seats – indicating that there are “opposing views” from “different user groups” and a “push and pull” between music promoters and theatrical artists.

The theater wants fewer seats to sell out an intimate venue while music promoters want closer to 200 seats in order to make their “break even” point on concert productions, Fawthrop explained.

The city bought a former bank building at 159 Pitt Street last year for $450,000 and renovations to turn it into an arts center are estimated to be $4-6 million.

But council’s outspoken arts advocate, Elaine MacDonald, is adamant there’s no divide.

“I think there could be different groups, but I honestly think that’s (music) promoters versus artists in that sense. So, I don’t see that as competitive thing or a fractionalization at all,” MacDonald told Cornwall Newswatch.

She acknowledged the “push and pull thing” and that there will be further public consultations while the design work takes place, which will likely take at least a year.

“What most people in the community want is what’s going to happen. There might be winners and losers but only on a small scale.”

Recreation GM Fawthrop told council a “good draft” has been done of the RFP (request for proposals) for architectural design and engineering and his department is “quite close” to issuing it, likely in the coming weeks.

The city will be borrowing $300,000 to do the design.