Kurtis Cullen in the basement of the Shatford Centre. School District 67 chair Shelley Clarke supports the ongoing use of the building by the Okanagan School of the Arts. (File photo - Western News)

Okanagan School of the Arts has support of school board chair for Shatford lease

City says it’s not in the budget to help Okanagan School of the Arts significantly this year

School District 67 board chair Shelley Clarke supports the Okanagan School of the Arts (OSA) continued lease of the Shatford Centre.

“If it came down to a vote for me, definitely things can change, but for the way things are now I would definitely vote to keep the lease going,” said board chair Shelley Clarke. “They’re very good tenants, we have no squabble with them whatsoever and they’ve been doing a very good job as far as a tenant so it’s not an issue for us.

“Like Wendy (School District 67 superintendent Wendy Hyer) said we don’t have any plans for anybody else moving in and this has kind of taken us by surprise.”

She was commenting on a notice sent out by the OSA board Feb. 27 which stated that not knowing whether the current lease, which expires in 2020, would be renewed, made new projects, fundraising and partnerships “tenuous or impossible” for the organization.

The day before the OSA board sent a notice of special meeting to its membership with a motion to cease operations effective March 31 due to insufficient monetary support to continue.

School district secretary treasurer Kevin Lorenz said the topic of renewal came up briefly during one meeting when he was asked by the OSA board member if the renewal could be looked at.

“The answer was ‘yes absolutely once you know what you’d like to ask for as far as time line duration and everything send us a request,’” he recalled. “We haven’t received a request to date, we haven’t had any meaningful conversations on it so far.”

Related: Okanagan School of the Arts may cease operations

Hyer said previously if the current lease with OSA is terminated and no other tenant could be found the centre would be closed down as the district has no educational use for the three-storey, 30,000-square-foot structure.

Meanwhile, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, who once threatened to chain himself to the Shatford Centre doors to keep it from being torn down in the early 2000’s, said it’s not in the municipal budget to help OSA right now in a substantial way.

“When it (Shatford Centre) first started we gave them a grant of $200,000 over a period of two years but the city never agreed to take over the facility and run it as a city facility,” he said. “I know when the Shatford building came up and that it could be used as an arts and culture building the community spoke loud and clear that they wanted it to be an arts and culture facility.”

Related: Penticton’s Okanagan School of the Arts wrapping up operations

He first heard about the possibility of OSA ceasing operations and the possible closure of the building only last week.

Vassilaki suggested the arts and culture organizations would have better luck securing funding from all levels of government if they would band together as one group, something OSA said it had tried to do in the past year without success.

“But we’re willing to negotiate, the city’s always willing to negotiate with any group in the community, if we can help out

we’ll help out being in the best interest of the community,” he said.



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