Jennifer Vincent is a board member for the Pen Mar Community Arts Society.

JENNIFER VINCENT: Kickstart the Penmar and the arts in Penticton

The dream of a downtown community performance space is within our grasp.

The dream of a downtown community performance space is within our grasp.

The Penmar Community Arts Society chose Kickstarter as a fundraising platform for this campaign because it makes funding a big dream, something that everyone can be a part of. With donation levels starting at $10 and going up to $8,000, there’s a level to suit everyone. In our town of 33,000, if just 2,000 people (less than 20 per cent) of the population contribute $100, this project would be funded. It’s that simple.

We are all drawn to volunteer for causes for different reasons, not all of them immediately obvious. This restoration project resonates with me at several levels. Firstly, I love buildings and spaces, particularly ones that have long histories.

For over 50 years the Penmar provided entertainment to our community, drawing audiences from as far away as Omak and Princeton to enjoy state-of-the-art cinema. Although in its final years the theatre was far from cutting edge, for much of its life the building offered the best screening technology and trends available. When the building closed, we lost access to a broad range of on-screen entertainment. Re-opening the Penmar as a multi-purpose arts space seems to be a natural evolution of this building’s significant heritage in our region.

Secondly, I believe strongly in creating opportunities for cultural expression, be that through song, dance, spoken word or on-screen media. Many of these creative undertakings are experimental and have little to no budget for development — I see an opportunity to support these projects, and to present them alongside more conventional arts experiences. I think that it’s a sign of good health and wellbeing for a city to offer a diverse range of entertainment.

Thirdly, I was drawn to the business plan that saw this facility operated as a self-sustaining business, without the need to depend on granting from municipal or other government coffers to stay afloat. Once we built the business plan and saw that the blend of film and live performance could indeed make a profitable operation, I was hooked.

The piece that seems not well known is this, if the Kickstarter campaign does not reach its goal no money changes hands. So, there’s nothing to lose, but so, so much to gain. This is not just about the ‘value’ you would get for your financial contribution. This is about coming together as a community to say: yes, we do love arts and culture. Yes, we do want to expand our entertainment options. Yes, we do want our city to be even more attractive to tourists and new residents.

The Society has done much in the past two years. We’ve raised $450,000 in support and with that we have completely renovated two theatres, removed asbestos, replaced an HVAC unit, and repaired the considerable damage left by the previous tenants. We have the seats, the curtains, and the projectors. Two complete theatres are ready to go. Our partners, sponsors and donors have shown that they believe in the value of this project. This last fundraising push which will finish the lobby, bathrooms, facade and concession.

For anyone who has ever expressed concern about the lack of ‘things to do,’ this is a solution. Our plan is to return to the days of $7 evening films and $5 matinees, showing independent, second-run, foreign, and special interest films. Live events will include comedy, lectures, dance, theatre and music. The licensed concession means you can have a glass of local wine or beer during a show.

The location of the Penmar theatre is ideal — in our downtown core, within walking distance from restaurants, bars, breweries, a distillery, galleries and other popular gathering places. A restored theatre would instantly revitalize a section of Martin Street which has been lack-lustre since the closing of the original theatre. Multiple nighttime shows would mean our streets will be alive again with activity. Imagine a true community performance space that is affordable to rent, and affordable to attend.

For all of this to happen we need to get the doors open! Once open, we can set our sights on the grander plans of Phase 2 and 3. But for now we focus on opening the doors.

With five days to go, you may look at the total raised funds and think that we are delusional — but in fact, we are staunch believers in this community. And magic happens in these last few moments — this campaign needs you, now. Using Kickstarter, you have nothing to lose. Penticton is a community who can band together for things we believe in. Sometimes the craziest ideas are the ones that succeed. Let’s give ourselves, and generations to come, the best Christmas present ever. Let’s bring back our Community Theatre!

Please visit www.kickstarter.com and search Penmar. Watch our video. Pledge your support by Dec 15.

Jennifer Vincent is a board member with the Penmar Community Arts Society

 

 

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