A celebration of the arts is expected some time this year as the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Arts Council marks 50 years in the community.
However, Curtis Pendleton, executive director of the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge, doesn’t expect the centre to be back at full capacity until about November or December. And that will only take place if the province meets its vaccination targets and restrictions are lifted, she said.
“One of the first to shut down, the arts and culture industry will be one of the last to reopen,” noted Pendleton.
The ACT shuttered its doors mid-March last year after a public health directive limited public gatherings to 50 people or less.
Since then the ACT has made enormous efforts to continue programming, said Pendleton, and were able to continue their three main programming streams: the learning programs, gallery exhibitions and some theatrical performances.
But, because of the restricted capacity permitted in the centre, revenue from the programs declined dramatically. And their rental revenue, normally a significant part of their operating budget, also declined because many of their rental clients ceased operations as well.
To sustain core operations the ACT has been dependent on the federal wage subsidy, the operating grant from the City of Maple Ridge, reserves, and emergency and resiliency funding received from other entities.
The ACT has also benefited from the film and television industry.
“Unlike the performing arts, the film and television industry has been allowed to continue under the current restrictions, with rigorous safety protocols in place,” explained Pendleton. Even though they have not seen more film shoots than in a normal year at the act, she continued, the duration of the film shoots have been longer.
Within the past year there have been a variety of production companies using the ACT including anything from one-day script readings to elaborate multi-day sets.
“There have been Egyptian mummies in the Lobby space, hospital rooms in the second floor Craft Studios, and actors actually flying across the Mainstage Theatre,” said the executive director.
Normally, she said, net revenue from the film shoots brings in between $40,000 to $70,000 for the ACT annually. But, recently they have seen this amount double because production companies are working through their backlogs as they catch up with their production schedules that were halted under the orders of the Provincial Health Officer.
The ACT recently received an Expanded Arts and Culture Resiliency Supplement from the province in the mount of $50,000 to help them offset the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The grant, said Pendleton, was helpful since facility operating expenses have not gone down during the pandemic, but have actually increased because of additional cleaning and safety protocols that the centre has had to put in place.
Pendleton is optimistic about the future of the Arts Centre. A patron and public survey put out in March found that the majority of people are prepared to return to theatres at full capacity by the end of the year, if they are allowed by the province. And as long as COVID-19 safety protocols are maintained for a while longer.
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