RDNO moves ahead on multi-purpose cultural facility

Vancouver architects hired to help with planning for Greater Vernon facility

A new multi-purpose cultural facility for Greater Vernon has moved a step closer.

Regional District of North Okanagan directors have hired Diamond Schmitt Architects from Vancouver to work with RDNO and community partners on the project.

The goal of this project is to develop a building solution that will meet the site and infrastructure needs of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives and Vernon Public Art Gallery, while providing much-needed additional multi-purpose programming spaces, including a small performance space.

The regional district has recognized that, through this process, the need may arise to consider alternatives due to costs or land availability, and the consultant will be considering any of these challenges as encountered and making recommendations.

The need for improved facilities was identified through community feedback and expertise received during the development of the Greater Vernon Cultural Plan, which was adopted by the Regional District in 2016.

“We heard from the community that they were supportive of a new facility for the museum and archives and the art gallery, and that they saw value in having them co-located if possible,” said Juliette Cunningham, Chair of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee. “We are still early in this process, but we will be working hard with the consultant over the next six to eight months to understand the needs of the community and organizations, identify opportunities that co-location may provide, such as shared spaces and audiences, and ultimately determine what the cost may be to construct and operate such a facility.”

Andrew Powell, president of the Vernon Public Art Gallery, welcomed the news, saying “a new facility will protect the community’s extensive art collection and visiting exhibitions, providing value to the community for many years to come.”

“From the annual Art from the Heart School District No. 22 exhibition, to our very successful events that include Riot on the Roof and Art After Dark, the art gallery is providing much-needed programming for all ages, including youth in the community,” said Powell. “We are looking forward to working with the regional district and the consultant toward a new facility that would allow activities like this to grow.”

The regional district has budgeted $100,000 to undertake this planning work and will lead the project, but RDNO will also be strongly informed by the museum, art gallery, Okanagan Indian Band, tourism and economic development representatives, and local cultural programmers. There will also be opportunity for public feedback.

“The community’s historical collections and archives have outgrown their space, and our programming and exhibition space is very limited,” said Dan Stuart, chairperson of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Society board of directors.

“The museum is becoming busier every day. A new facility will allow us to continue to protect our history for the benefit of the Greater Vernon community, while also being able to effectively educate and entertain residents and visitors through relevant and interactive exhibitions and presentations.

“We are ready for this, and are looking forward to working with the Regional District, art gallery and community stakeholders on a well-planned community amenity.”

For more information, or for updates on the project progress, visit www.rdno.ca/culturalplan.

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