Surrey City Orchestra conductor Stuart Martin (with microphone) speaks during a concert at Surrey Arts Centre last Friday night (Sept. 28). One day, the fledgling orchestra aims to be based at a new performing arts theatre in the City Centre area, if and when it’s built. (Submitted photo: Silvester Law Photography)

ELECTION QUESTIONS: How would you boost arts and culture in Surrey?

We asked Surrey’s eight mayoral candidates what they’ll do, if elected

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth part in a series leading up to Surrey’s Oct. 20 election. Are there questions about the Surrey election you want answered? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at edit@surreynowleader.com.

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Is Surrey in desperate need of a performing arts centre?

Several mayoral candidates in the Surrey election say it is, but other campaign commitments wildly vary when it comes to the city’s arts and culture landscape.

The Integrity Now, Surrey First and People First Surrey parties all vow to build a such a facility.

The Integrity Now slate says it’s a “much-needed asset” and if elected, vows to create a performance and cultural centre in the city’s downtown core. The team’s mayoral candidate, and incumbent councillor, Bruce Hayne said the facility would be a venue that “showcases world-class talent and creates positive economic impact throughout the city, as well as a facility that embraces and provides a showcase for local talent.”

“I see this facility being both a huge financial benefit to this neighbourhood and throughout the city,” he added. If elected, Hayne said his team is “committed to establishing a multi-faceted facility that will draw creatives from across the province and beyond to a spectacular facility dedicated to art, culture and music.”

Surrey First also promises to build a “world class” performing arts centre, if elected, as well as a “contemporary art gallery in South Surrey and new spaces for artists in community centres.” Surrey First’s envisioned facility would include a “1,200-seat performing arts centre” but also “a smaller 200-seat theatre and rehearsal space, expanded lobby for receptions, meeting space for conferences and a privately-run signature restaurant.” The slate’s mayoral candidate, and incumbent councillor, Tom Gill estimates the 240,000-square-foot facility will cost $245 million.

Surrey First also says it will create an endowment fund to “kick-start plans” for the project, double arts and culture grants, and use the “maker space” planned for the new Clayton Community Centre as a model for more artist work spaces across the city.

Gill said he would commit $1 million annually over the next five years to an arts and culture endowment fund as a way of launching plans for the performing arts centre, including developing a financial and fundraising case that would include other levels of government and “local philanthropists.” He said it would take four years to put a business case together, find partners and secure funding “but I believe we can have our performing arts centre open within 10 years.”

Gill said the arts centre would be a “catalyst for a vibrant entertainment district in and around city centre and a major attraction for those of us in Surrey as well as visitors from across the region.”

The slate also promises to double arts and culture grants to $1 million from $500,000 annually over the next five years.

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People First Surrey, meantime, also vow that if elected it will work to create a “world class performing arts centre.” The slate’s mayoral candidate Rajesh Jayaprakash said in an email the facility would be “hugely expensive” adding that his party would “attempt for something like Surrey First is proposing for amenities.”

“However we have no plans to spend city money on it or increase taxes or use reserve funds of city,” he wrote. “It will be a partnership with other entities including private partners (and other levels of government) with city providing only the land and putting in some conditions to ensure Surrey public and artists get discounted rates.”

City Centre or Cloverdale Fairgrounds would be “good candidates” for its location, a release noted. His slate also proposes a “Night Life Street” in City Centre, or perhaps near the Cloverdale Fairgrounds if the performing arts centre was to be located there.

The People First Surrey team also vows to implement a “Surrey Arts Reserve Fund,” created through a one-time donation from the city, and would be done within a year of the election. It would be done in addition to existing cultural grants offered by the city.

Jayaprakash said it would be “probably close to $10 million. At least $5 million.” The fund would involve establishing a registry of Surrey-based artists and “budding talents,” as well as “significantly reduced rents” for city facilities for artists.

The Safe Surrey Coalition, led by former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, said in a release “we don’t need to take the Surrey First approach of a quarter billion dollar investments in theatres, lobbies, meeting spaces and private restaurants that will directly compete with already existing public and private sector facilities. Especially when the program is being dictated by city hall without adequate public consultation.”

The team, which introduced their arts and culture platform at a mayoral debate in Cloverdale last month, centres on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, on city-owned lands.

Safe Surrey says it will “engage residents to rally around the concept of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds becoming the arts and cultural crown jewel of Surrey.”

Safe Surrey says it will engage youth as part of planning this hub, and will support grass roots cultural festivals and events organized by ethnic communities.

“A more favourable approach to parades will also be introduced,” their release notes. “The Safe Surrey Coalition arts and culture platform is grounded in Surrey’s mosaic of ethnicities with a vision for a truly exciting future.”

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Meantime, mayoral candidate Imtiaz Popat, with the two-person Progressive Sustainable Surrey team, also disagrees with others’ proposals for a large arts centre.

Instead, he calls for a “waterfront arts and culture space similar to Granville Island with building of the new Patullo Bridge.”

“We can revitalized (sic) the industrial area and open up the access to the river and develop a space for a pubic market, art galleries and performance space like New Westminster and Richmond have,” he wrote in an email to the Now-Leader. “Also with our proposal to reactivate the interurban community rail service, it will connect this area with nine other communities in Surrey including the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts, the Surrey Museum and both Newton and Overdecorate KPU campuses. Connecting these communities would do a lot to support the local arts scene. We also need another performing arts centre in North Surrey.”

Asked what his vision for arts and culture is in Surrey, independent mayoral candidate John Wolanski wrote a hand-written letter to submit to Black Press.

“For me arts especially the performing arts, has been about social commentary or as sociologists put it, our thoughts and feelings on the human condition,” Wolanski wrote. “Performances that invoke feelings, thoughts and above all empathy, create an opportunity to view varying points of view through another’s eyes. In realizing this, whether through song, stage, or various forms of media a strong arts community is essential to a strong democracy, as is speaking truth to power. I fully support a funding mechanism to ensure a vibrant arts community to ensure a legacy of creative talent that will grow us a city, but hopefully as a species.”

Meantime, the Proudly Surrey party was the first to reveal its arts policy, back in April. The “left-leaning” slate makes many promises, including the creation of a “Bear Creek Arts Strip” along 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard “anchored by a renewed Surrey Arts Centre.” It would include the construction of new municipal buildings for restaurant, gallery and studio space on public land on the north and south sides of 88th between King George and Lauder Drive. The team also vows to increase Surrey Arts Centre’s budget to “fund local dramatic and musical production, phasing out the Arts Club contract.”

Proudly Surrey also says it will increase Surrey Art Gallery’s budget to “fund better gallery shows with greater emphasis on local and Aboriginal production.”

Other promises include establishing a property tax discount system for short-term gallery rentals, and reducing property taxes on commercial spaces that grant short-term leases to artists and galleries. And, the slate says it will “invite Emily Carr University to partner with the city in creating a Surrey campus either as part of the Bear Creek Arts Strip and/or the University Drive development to further expand Surrey’s local university campus system.”

Independent mayoral candidate Francois Nantel wrote in an email to the Now-Leader that if elected, he would work to develop an “alley where painters of all types can show their arts, and paint/draw as well right on site (like in the Old Montréal).”

He would also launch a “Surrey’s Trio Contest for Original Music, and hold the performances live on YouTube or Facebook, until it is picked up by a major broadcaster.

“I will consult with the citizens and have them bring their ideas to the table, and I will re-assess the budget for arts and culture, and hopefully, with the implication of Victoria, and Ottawa, boost it,” added Nantel.

Click here to read more election stories.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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