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Staffing shortages, participation hampering post-pandemic recovery at arts centre in Maple Ridge

Executive director delivers presentation to city council

Staffing levels at The ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge have remained a challenge, affecting the overall operational capacity of the facility.

In a presentation to Maple Ridge city council updating them on the centre’s operations, Curtis Pendleton, executive director of the arts centre, noted filling vacant positions continues to be a challenge and volunteers are only at 50 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels.

Pendleton said she is hopeful about the future of the ACT, but that they are still in recovery mode from the COVID-19 pandemic which saw the centre shuttered in March 2020 with programs slowly starting up again in July the same year, and theatrical performances around October.

However, since then, the centre has also struggled with program participation.

As The ACT Presents Series started up again, it slowly drew in larger audiences. And then in early winter 2022, the Omicron variant forced the cancellation of shows in January and February. Last season the series still delivered 36 presentations and 137 performing artists to a total audience of 4,501.

“Though it was a significant increase, over the participation in the year previous, it was still less than half of our pre-pandemic audience,” said Pendleton.

And five exhibitions at The ACT Art Gallery that featured the works of 64 visual artists and 102 SD42 arts students, saw 4,751 visitors.

“Again less than half of our pre-pandemic numbers,” said Pendleton

Pendleton is buoyed by the significant participation in artistic programs at the centre. More than 3,300 students of all ages took part in an arts class at the centre.

READ MORE: The ACT shuts its doors

Pendleton also noted the uptick in interest in programs for adults and said the centre was also able to recommence professional development day activities for teachers in the local school district in addition to designing workshops for students.

So far this season there have been several sold-out shows, and learning programs are at record participation – more than 26 per cent than last year.

Gallery participation is also up 79 per cent and there have been 674 new patrons.

There have been improvements made to the centre as well, thanks to more than $150,000 funded by the Arts Council.

Improvements include: curtain system replacement; touchless washroom fixtures; energy-saving LED Lighting replacements throughout the facility; internet re-cabling for administrative offices; and the replacement of the main stage sound system, with help from the city, which will be installed during the summer.

ALSO: Live theatre performances to restart in October at ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge

Pendleton is hopeful the centre can make a full recovery. The community is growing, she said, which brings newcomers with high expectations for local entertainment, and with more development downtown, more people within walking distance to the centre will rely on local programming.

“Without question, it’s clear that living through these pandemic times has affected how people now gather and participate. Some have enthusiastically jumped back into all the arts activities they love and for others, it will take more time,” said Pendleton to council.

She noted that with help from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Department of Canadian Heritage, and the BC Art Council, the Arts Council in Maple Ridge finished the year strong with a surplus of 18 per cent, in a budget of a little more than $2 million.

“The role that the arts serves in our lives remains as old as the human race – to uplift, to inspire, to help us process and understand the world and celebrate and explore our shared humanity,” she said, adding that the Arts Council will continue to connect, inspire, and heal the community through the arts.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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