Cornwall arts center campaign recharged with donor reveal

Geishan Rajaratnam performs a dance routine during a donor reveal event for the Cornwall Arts and Culture Center at the Benson Center on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. The fundraising committee held the event to recharge the campaign on the heels of receiving its first six-figure donation. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – On the heels of its first six-figure donation, the community fundraising committee for the Cornwall Arts and Culture Center has unveiled its donors and fundraising to date.

Around 50 people were at the Benson Center this afternoon (Wednesday) to see two giant donor boards unveiled with the 111 donors so far. The committee has raised $365,795 in pledges and real money. There’s $186,445 actually in the bank.

That included a $100,000 donation from the Jean-Louis and Colette Bellemare Family Foundation – the founders of Farm Boy.

Fundraising committee chairman Katie Burke told Cornwall Newswatch, with the big donation, this was an “excellent time” to reveal the donors and recharge the fundraising campaign.

“It should serve as impetus for other foundations to say, okay, if the Bellemare Foundation is in then we’re going to be in as well and that’s what we’re looking for. We know there’s money out there that’s coming to us. It’s just encouraging people,” Burke said.

The fundraising committee started in January with an ambitious goal of $1 million in six months and didn’t meet that target. Burke doesn’t feel that hurt the campaign.

“Ultimately, the amount of money that we raise as a community is critical. (At the start) we were working in the dark. There was no RFP. There was no plan. We sort of had to go on the vision feeling that ultimately it will happen,” she said.

Two donor boards, designed by Rob Lalonde, stand inside the Benson Center on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. The fundraising committee held a donor reveal event to recharge the campaign on the heels of receiving its first six-figure donation. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

RFP to go out next weekend, decision in October

Parks Division Manager Jamie Fawthrop told the audience the Request for Proposals for an architectural team to design the future arts and culture center on Pitt Street (159 Pitt Street in the former Bank of Montreal building) will be going out next week.

Firms will have one month to made their applications.

City councillors would likely be in a position to make a decision by the first council meeting in October to pick a firm, he said. The city has budgeted $300,000 for the design work.

“I feel like I want to go up to the donor wall and hug it,” Mayor Bernadette Clement joked as she threw her hands out to her sides in front of the display.

Clement said this was “a day to be grateful” especially for the “early ones” – people who believed in the vision from the beginning. She also said this would “show them (other levels of government) that this is going to happen.”

“We will show everyone what we can do here,” the mayor said.

The event also saw some performing arts – a dance number by Geishan Rajaratnam and a song by Heather Gallinger, accompanied on piano by Laurie Proulx.

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