GRAVENHURST - With Gravenhurst Opera House and its future operation one vital cog in the wheel, town council is looking to move ahead with a cultural plan for Gravenhurst.
To be done in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs through its Rural Economic Development Fund, the downtown revitalization committee and its partners like the BIA and chamber of commerce, it will include a thorough inventory and cultural mapping exercise. The opera house will play a vital role in that, particularly as town council has two separate, privately submitted business plan proposals to assume its operation. The opera house will be part of the cultural plan and yet slightly separated as council will also consider its options with an opera house review.
As a housekeeping measure before the cultural plan and opera house review begin, council also passed a resolution during its meeting July 3 that any future plans for the opera house will have it as a presenting venue, rather than a production house, as proposed recently in the private business plan submissions.
“The opera house is an integral part of a cultural plan, something that I think the community needs by next year,” said CAO Frank Miele. “And if we’re going to be a strong cultural community, we need a strong cultural plan.”
He explained the cultural plan is something of a “cookie-cutter approach,” unfolding in five phases as outlined under a Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports planning process. The first phase will be to establish the plan’s goals, priorities and a task force to oversee it before stepping ahead to phase two, which will inventory the town’s current cultural policies and plans, create a cultural map to identify the current resources, assets and strengths in and around town and then analyze that information to identify gaps or weaknesses.
The cultural mapping exercise component of phase two is where the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs steps in, having established an agreement with the downtown revitalization committee to allocate $30,000 toward the project.
Miele said it can take up to 12 months to complete this portion, so time would be of the essence to begin working toward an economic strategy.
The subsequent phases would seek to engage the public and community stakeholders in vision sharing, determining how to achieve those goals with the current asset structure or needed additions, and finally to monitor its success and adapt or attract new cultural endeavours.
The project still needs to gain approval from the downtown revitalization committee for the expenditure, and return to council during its July 17 meeting.
The opera house review is to help determine what the council intends to do with it in the future. Two private business plans propose taking over operations from the town, but before council can make a decision, it needs to know better the financial implications as well as how its operation fits into the long-term cultural goals to be set out in the cultural plan.
Miele said he would have some form of recommendation to council for discussion in the next month or two about “what we can do to have the opera house more independently self-sustaining.”