Civic center bombshell drops on New Westminster arts community

The New Westminster arts community is up in arms after finding out that the city’s new 80,000 square foot civic center will not have any gallery space for exhibits and displays.

This bombshell was revealed at a planning workshop last Thursday night and we’ve received more than a few emails on the subject over the past several days.

According to one source, the question of having a dedicated gallery space was quickly brushed aside at the planning workshop with a vague suggestion from city staff that gallery space could perhaps be part of the centre’s foyer.

However, another source in the arts community has indicated that the city has no intention whatsoever of putting a gallery in the new civic centre and the source was told to stop lobbying for gallery space because it was already decided prior to the public workshop that there would be none.

The obvious question to ask at this point is who decided this? What information informed this decision? And why go through the pretence of a public consultation if the decisions have already been carved in stone beforehand?

Many who’ve contacted us feel this is another example of the city making important decisions in a hasty manner without taking the time to review or even reflect upon input from the public.

To say the least, the planning process around the new civic center appears to be anything but open and transparent and it has the hallmarks of yet another “done deal” process emanating from the backrooms of City Hall rather than being the product of an input-driven process involving the citizens of this city.

One resident who contacted us said the city needs to start recognizing that they don’t have all the answers and that, when given the opportunity, the residents of New Westminster are creative problem solvers the city can count on to help. Residents should be the first resource in planning processes like this one, not the last resource or an afterthought.

There’s a good article on the subject posted on the Newsleader’s website pointing out that during last year’s public input on the civic centre, local art exhibit space was identified as a priority for the new centre and it was tied for third place with theatre seating and a visitor’s centre among respondents.