Is Brampton's Arts and Culture Scene About to Change Drastically?

Brampton is a city that’s constantly changing, and new developments galore are on their way - a new university and streetscape for the downtown core, an expanded Peel Memorial, a brand new Riverwalk along the Etobicoke Creek, an indoor famers’ market, and so much more. Now, the arts and culture scene could be facing changes, too - community groups are too often grasping for resources, and the City is pulling together the pieces to create a “master plan” for culture in Brampton.

Brampton’s arts and culture scene is vibrant and varied, and though arts and culture often struggle in our community, it’s no secret that talent spews from Brampton. With the Culture Master Plan in the works, now is an interesting time to take a second look at our arts community.

Beaux-Arts Brampton, The Rose Theatre, public art, PAMA, outdoor festivals, and beyond - prominent places and groups that support arts and culture in Brampton definitely exist. But whether they are all given the chance to flourish - or how they could flourish even more - is up for discussion.

It’s true that the City is currently accepting feedback on the arts and culture scene in Brampton, geared towards creating Brampton’s first Culture Master Plan, which indicates that changes are indeed on the horizon for arts and culture in our city.

Basically, the five-minute survey asks a series of questions about your involvement with arts and culture in Brampton, including how important arts and culture are to you, if you’ve perused a museum or gone to see a performance here in the past year, and where you attend free or paid arts and culture events - Toronto and the GTA, Brampton, elsewhere in Ontario or Canada, or somewhere else entirely.

In 2017, two big companies were hired on to support Brampton’s growing arts and culture scene through the Master Plan.

Lord Cultural Resources, the world’s largest cultural professional practice, has helped create iconic cultural destinations in a whopping 460 cities, in 57 countries, on six continents. They're all about building cultural capital and valuing local cultural diversity, and are headquartered in Toronto. Then there’s Nordicity, which will play a supportive role in the task. Nordicity is an international consulting firm that focuses on business strategy and economic analysis for arts, culture, and heritage, and holds a key office in Toronto, as well.

The Culture Master Plan is an opportunity to reframe and focus the ways in which we drive and invest in arts and culture, to build a great city,” said Bob Darling, Director, Economic Development and Culture, in a recent statement.

Public involvement is critical to ensuring that this plan is community-led, unique and exciting. Brampton is poised to become a cultural destination in Ontario, building on the immense creative talents and resources that make up our community.”

This is all well and good, and the survey is an important step towards an arts and culture scene that more people want to both stay in and come to our city for. Arts and culture are a source of enjoyment and creativity for residents and tourists alike.

At a time when arts groups like Brampton Music Theatre (BMT) are being booted out of their rehearsal space - the arts and culture building at 115 Orenda Road - as the building is being sold, it might be more important now than ever to show support for the arts in Brampton.

In January, President of BMT, Sharon Vandrish told city council that BMT needs support. According to Vandrish, rental pricing at Lester B. Pearson Theatre is on the rise and the space will be closed for renovations later this year, the building at Orenda must be vacated by June, and the Rose Theatre won’t permit BMT’s typical dates for programming, reducing a two-week spring 2019 run to just one to accommodate more groups.

The 55-year-old music theatre group has brought in almost 50,000 patrons in the past four years alone with shows like The Wizard of Oz, Shrek Jr., Hairspray, and West Side Story. In 2017, the group had an economic impact of $1.2 billion.

Council did acknowledge and they they would “endeavour to address all concerns raised by the [BMT]”, including that availability of space is an issue for the arts community as a whole in Brampton.

But BMT isn’t the only arts group struggling - artistic director of B-Jazzed Carmen Spada, who spearheaded the World of Jazz festival last year, also delegated to council in January about how there’s a lack of support for the entire arts community in Brampton.

As a whole, it’s relevant for everyone to get involved in Brampton’s arts and culture scene - whether by attending performances at the Rose or heading out to a paint night at Visual Arts Brampton - so that it not only survives, but grows. Brampton is booming, and it’s crucial to have enough resources and support for the arts moving forward.

So to what extent is Brampton’s arts and culture scene about to change? Short answer: we’ll have to wait and see.

In terms of the Culture Master Plan, the research and analysis phase of the plan were completed from October-December 2017, the survey is part of the public engagement phase which is happening from January-March 2018, a draft plan is due by May, and the final presentation to City council is set for June.

For more information and if you want to take the survey, click here.

Cover photo of local artist Crystal Lori Boyd courtesy of Herman Custodio

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