WHALLEY — Ellie King could barely contain her excitement when talking about Project 10660, the working title of a new “creative cluster” for youth arts programming set to open here later this year.
“We’ve finally found a home,” King, founder and director of Royal Canadian Theatre Company, told the Now.
“It’s a game-changer for us in so many areas, I can’t begin to tell you,” King added. “It’s so exciting.”
The local theatre company, along with Vancouver-based Streetrich Hip Hop Society, have been chosen by the city to operate the 2,500-square-foot facility, located at 10660 City Parkway.
Re-purposing the city-owned property – at a cost of approximately $250,000 – will “contribute to the further development of Surrey’s Cultural Corridor, and create a much needed venue to support art making and creative collaborations in City Centre,” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner stated in an April 13 release announcing the initiative.
CLICK HERE to read project background on City of Surrey’s website.
Royal Canadian and Streetrich have been selected to operate the facility, in tandem, following the city’s 2015 call for proposals to local arts organizations.
Construction work at the currently vacant, L-shaped building – a former auto shop – is set to begin in July, with a projected opening date later this year.
King said the theatre company will use the space for rehearsals, set construction and its youth education program.
“One of my biggest nightmares and headaches has been finding a place to rehearse everybody and to build scenery,” she said.
“A space like this is vital for a group like ours, and others who may want to use it. Having this kind of infrastructure takes the pressure off, you know, so instead of me talking to realtors five hours a day, on my knees begging for space, this takes that off my plate so now, I have time for art, creating art, performances.”
The location of the facility, in one of Surrey’s most drug-filled neighbourhoods, doesn’t bother King.
“That doesn’t phase me at all,” she said. “You know I took the Columbia Theatre (in New Westminster) from hooker central, crack dealer central, to a fully functioning theatre that had kids in there on a regular basis, with classes, all that.… Having non-drug activities in an area tends to make the dealers and users, along with the hookers, all that, move away a little. It will be a busy building, with stuff happening there all the time, and lights on, it will be a good thing. It becomes its own little oasis, if you like. The bad guys, if you want to call them that, tend to move away from the area then.”
Kia Kadiri, vice-president of Streetrich, said the facility will be “an amazing opportunity” for the hip-hop group.
“We’ve been looking for a space like this, for a school, for a long time. It’s a bit of a dream come true,” she said. “We’re new to Surrey, which is really open about recognizing what youth need in a facility like this. I think they saw something they wanted in the space and chose us, through this application process of something like 50 applicants.”