The Chatham-Kent Arts and Culture Network (CKACN) is expressing some concerns with the proposed Downtown Chatham Centre (DCC) development, saying it threatens arts and culture in Chatham Kent.
CKACN Board Chair Dan White told CK News Today his group is fighting to keep the 60-year-old Chatham Cultural Centre and the Kiwanis Theatre open at their current location and hopes council is willing to listen to their concerns and suggestions.
White said his primary concern is the loss of the Kiwanis Theatre if the CK Museum and Thames Art Gallery are moved to the DCC as proposed. He is also concerned that intimate community performances will vanish if smaller venues close and fears that many theatre groups and fundraisers may disappear if the smaller venues close.
White said the Kiwanis Theatre should not only be maintained, but enhanced to further community connection to and engagement in the arts. He said there was no mention of the Kiwanis Threatre at a meeting to discuss the development held three weeks ago.
"The lack of any mention of the Kiwanis Theatre is a concern because it leads us to believe there is no plan for the Kiwanis Theatre and there is a plan for an arena with a multi-purpose 4,000 seat venue," said White.
He said the 1,200 seat Capitol Theatre is a valuable asset for larger performances, but it's too large and expensive for smaller, community-based performances.
"It would crush community theatre. Theatre Kent would not be able to fill and/or afford the Capitol Theatre. So, that would leave them relegated to halls, churches, and places that are not suited well to a performance venue," White added.
He noted that a proposal to renovate the current council chambers won't cut it as a community performance space if the new council chambers is located in the new DCC project.
"They actually suggested that the council chambers could be turned into a multi-purpose performance venue that could replace the Kiwanis Theatre and that's an incredibly short-sighted vision, but I don't think it's because they don't care, it's because they don't know," White said. "Moving everything into the centre downtown when you haven't spoken to people involved in theatre or the arts and culture in general means that you're going to make mistakes and you won't be able to repair them once they're made."
White also criticized the proposed DCC plan for not having an arts consultant or any arts expertise.
Chatham-Kent's General Manager of Community Development Bruce McAllister said "no decisions" have been made with respect to the future use of the Chatham Cultural Centre.
"We will continue to work with the arts and culture community to look at various options," said McAllister.
He anticipates the next public report on the DCC project will come in the coming months.