Several arts groups in Brampton, including Brampton Music Theatre (BMT), are being displaced. These groups are now speaking out about the need for better funding and a deeper commitment to the arts community in Brampton.
The Arts and Culture Building at 115 Orenda Road is being sold by the City as surplus real estate, and as a result, arts groups must vacate the premises by June 2018. This building is not only where BMT holds its rehearsals, it’s also where construction of props and set pieces take place. BMT has expressed concern that there is no alternative location available.
In addition, Lester B. Pearson Theatre (LBP), where BMT normally hosts its Youth Troupe shows, will be closed for renovations later this year, leaving three of those shows with no theatre in which to perform.
The Rose Theatre has told BMT that it will not be allowed to use the Rose for its regular rollover dates, which reduces the BMT’s two-week run to one week. This is to accommodate other groups displaced from LBP Theatre, such as out-of-town dance competitions. BMT has also been informed it will no longer receive a discounted rate for using the LBP.
In a recent delegation to Brampton City Council, BMT president Sharon Vandrish gave a presentation which indicated how important BMT has been for the city, both financially and culturally. Vandrish said of the 55,000 patrons the Rose Theatre attracted in 2017, 25 per cent were from Brampton Music Theatre productions. She also noted the economic impact on Brampton was $1.2 million.
In her presentation, Vandrish asked the city either not to sell the Orenda property or to find a suitable alternative. She also requested the city continue to support the two-week runs at the Rose, maintain BMT’s discounted rate, allow the three displaced Youth Troupe shows to perform at The Rose, and put the needs of local groups in front of out-of-town dance competitions.
She also asked that Brampton arts groups be included in the City’s upcoming “Cultural Master Plan,” which is scheduled for completion in the next few months and will be presented in June 2018.
Another delegation to City Council was Carmen Spada, Artistic Director of B-Jazzed, who produced last year’s World of Jazz Festival in Brampton. He echoed Vandrish’s concerns about the city’s priorities with regard to funding and space, expressing a desire for Council work with all arts groups on an equal and fair basis.
The overall consensus on this issue seems to be that there simply aren’t enough funds and real estate available for arts groups in Brampton and that they all have to fight for scraps because the city does not seem invested in helping to promote and develop an arts community in Brampton.
Beaux-Arts Brampton, the city’s only Artist-Run Centre, has also been feeling the pinch lately, struggling to make ends meet with limited resources.
In a recent delegation to Council Chair of the city’s Arts and Culture Panel, Chuck Scott pointed out that Brampton’s community grants program focused on the arts only works out to 17 cents per capita, while the average in other major Canadian cities is about $8.86, signaling a massive gap.
City Council referred both delegations back to staff, meaning Council must report back on this issue at a future meeting. In the meantime, the city is conducting research for its Arts and Culture Master Plan which is supposed to shed light on how the city can better support local arts groups and various other arts initiatives.
Feature Image – Brampton Music Theatre’s production of West Side Story