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Letter: Supporting arts and finding a youth centre equally as important

I strongly encourage all of us the stop making this into an “either/or” conflict

The apparent conflict over use of the old Nanaimo Hall site is unnecessary and the inflammatory rhetoric it has generated is disappointing.

Penticton badly needs both a youth drop-in centre and a creative and performing arts facility and this site is not big enough for them both.

As a Rotarian, I am acutely aware of the need for youth resources in Penticton, and I am proud of my club’s leadership in supporting the youth resource centre initiative. It is not a matter of whether we need it but where.

At the same time, as one who has long respected and promoted the role of the performing arts in the making of a sustainable city, I see Penticton as seriously lacking in the infrastructure necessary to support and develop the performing arts. They are an essential element in a creative and livable city. And it is creative, liveable cities that will win in today’s challenging economic climate. These are the cities that will successfully attract the kind of entrepreneurial businesses in the technology sector that will boost the average income of our citizens. We are now overly dependent on a tourism sector that provides mainly service-level jobs that are often only part-time.

Penticton is long overdue in supporting the arts as an economic driver. With encouragement from previous councils, South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre has worked hard to develop a viable plan for a purpose-built creative and performing arts facility at the old Nanaimo Hall site. It is envisaged as an anchor facility in the development of a cultural corridor that will greatly enhance the livability and attractiveness of our downtown district. It will be one important step toward increasing the traffic that is essential to making our downtown sustainable. In short, to use a metaphor, the shoe is a perfect fit for the foot. A lot of work went into early studies for this facility, and there is really no other location that will enable it to do its job.

So, I strongly encourage all of us the stop making this into an “either/or” conflict with a winner and a loser. Both projects can be winners, and I urge the organizers for the youth centre to work with the city to find an alternate site that still works for our youth.

Gerry Karr