August 26, 2022

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Can art learn from hockey?

What’s Elk Point got that Cold Lake ain’t got?

There’s a few things actually, but I’m thinking specifically of Elk Point Allied Arts’ performance venue. I’m jealous.

A couple of recent developments have me thinking about the lack of an arts facility in Cold Lake. One is the drive to build a new venue in Bonnyville to replace the Lyle Victor Albert Centre. The other is Cold Lake’s decision to continue operating their venerable old North arena.

About 25 years ago that rink was slated for demolition as the city was planning to build an “Arts and Leisure Centre” where the Energy Centre now stands. The trouble was, the Arts and Leisure Centre included rinks and gyms and plans for a pool, but there was no arts component.

I asked if it might be possible to convert the North arena into a multidiscipline arts facility with a performance stage, studios, and workshops. That idea was immediately shot down. As soon as ground was broken on the new “arts and leisure” rink – er, centre – the blue rink was coming down. It was too expensive to operate and too dangerous to occupy.

But it’s still standing, because it’s needed for hockey.

It’s tempting to blame hockey culture and city councils for the lack of arts infrastructure in Cold Lake, but we artsy folk should look in the mirror first. When you look at hockey families, you will see that they are organized; they fundraise like mad; and they pay plenty of money to keep the rinks in use.

Can Cold Lake’s artists match that kind of effort? Can they look beyond their own arts disciplines—music, theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, as examples—and come together to demonstrate a need and promote a compelling vision?

Can they fundraise? If a facility is built, would they pay to use it?

I may be wrong, but I don’t see the city looking seriously at an arts facility in the next ten years. I’m sure at least one new hockey surface will be added before an arts centre is even considered. And so again the arts community will be left to wonder “what about us?”

It’s a fair question, but it’s one we should be asking ourselves.