A year and a half ago, in the middle of the Smart Cities Challenge, I was discussing with a sculptor about the benefits of linking business, tech and the arts together when we decided to present at the Okanagan School of the Arts board meeting.
I had no idea that encounter would end up transforming the organization, me becoming president (I am not an artist by any means, although tech is very creative) and end up with my business, Big Bear Software, and two others, XCO, and netDNA becoming anchor tenants upstairs and helping stabilize the organization so it can fulfill its mandate as an arts school and help the Shatford Centre be the thriving community hub that it should be.
One of the key things we realized during the challenge was that Penticton is lacking community hubs and that there are many groups that don’t have a place to go.
The Shatford Centre is a perfect place for events, classes, and more. We have a beautiful front lawn that recently hosted Indigenous Day, and could be used for sports, music, and live events. We have a 200-person auditorium, a smaller galleria and several classrooms and workshop spaces. We have a large, amazing commercial kitchen that Rotary helped us build. This can be rented out by the afternoon, by the hour or the month. Happy Fork started their business there and did so well that they built their own kitchen.
When I joined the board last November my role was to help renegotiate the lease with the school board next June while the rest of the board was focused on ensuring the future of the OSA. When we ran into some issues in February it became apparent that the board needed an entrepreneurial leader to fulfill the vision. President of an arts organization is way out of my comfort zone, but I am enjoying learning more about the amazing arts community in the South Okanagan. We’ve improved security by working with Local Security and work closely with the Okanagan Skaha School District, the RCMP and city bylaw to continue to improve community safety in and around the building. The effect this has had over the last few months is significant. With two boys in high school this coming year I feel satisfied that we’ve helped to make the area safer. Feel free to come to have lunch on our front lawn, I’d love to see more people out there.
As for the accidental tech hub, when we were looking for anchor tenants we were looking for companies that didn’t want to just rent space, but wanted to be part of building the community in and around the building. I could write a book on how creative and artistic tech is and with the IdeaForge MakerSpace in the basement, I know that we will all help grow the OSA and the Shatford Centre. I know the owners and many of the employees and many of us are community-minded and have volunteered countless hours. I’m excited to see what we can do.
Finally, TechBrew is still going strong, join us Friday, Sept. 13th at the Station Public House from 6-9 p.m. and network with the South Okanagan’s tech professionals.
Keith MacIntyre writes a tech column exclusively for the Penticton Western News and is the owner of Big Bear Software Inc.
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