Fort Qu’Appelle town council decided Thursday night to form a committee that will meet with a local non-profit arts group to reach an agreement over the group’s use and operation of a 110-year-old building in the town.
The non-profit group, the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts (QVCA), has renovated and maintained the town’s old Central School since 2011, calling the building by the same name as its group.
In November 2014, the group and the town signed a six-year letter of agreement allowing the arts group to rent and operate the heritage site, paying $1 per year to the town. The QVCA provided an unsigned copy of the letter to the Leader-Post.
Town chief administrative officer Victor Goodman said council decided to strike “a committee of three council members and the mayor to meet with a committee from the QVCA. The first meeting is scheduled for this week.
“They are going to discuss the issue at hand and hopefully amicably work towards a solution that’s agreeable to everyone.”
In a written submission to council, QVCA board chair Jim Harding accused Goodman of not holding up the town’s end of the 2014 letter. His submission claimed the CAO “basically threw away the collaborative Agreement (sic) that was in place from the start, and has tried to impose a Commercial Lease or some other sort of lease upon the QVCA. But, as he should know, we are not a commercial group; we are a non-profit group.”
Three members of the arts group presented Harding’s concerns over the yet-to-be-renewed agreement to council. Harding could not attend because of a health issue.
Goodman denied the accusations. He said, “the town has proposed a mutually-acceptable landlord-tenant agreement be formalized simply for the purpose of protecting the old town school as a town asset.
“QVCA has done a great job operating the school to date and we hope this relationship will be maintained for many years to come.”
Harding could not be reached for comment, but QVCA communications director Brian Baggett called council’s decision a “huge relief,” describing the municipal body as “extremely cordial and supportive” during Thursday’s delegation.
When they finished speaking, he said, council responded, “‘We don’t want to see the QVCA go away.’”
A date for the meeting hasn’t been set.
In making its case to council, the QVCA also pointed to a clause in the original letter that states the non-profit had first right to renew an agreement with the town upon expiration in 2020 and every six years after that.
The non-profit also plans to host council members — who Baggett said he learned Thursday had never been to the QVCA facility — for a socially-distant tour of the building, to show renovations and work the group does there.
Baggett also noted the group’s concern about possibly losing non-profit status, if a landlord-tenant agreement were to be signed with the town.
A non-profit, he said, “keeps the integrity of art in general … I’m a musician and a wood-worker. When I work for a person … I’ve got to do what that person wants … it’s what I get paid for.“
“As an artist, you can create what you need in the moment, so nobody’s breathing down my neck … with a non-profit status it allows us to not be controlled by others,” including for grant applications, he said.
Baggett confirmed there’s also concern if a planned art exhibit were to “offend and represent the town poorly,” a landlord-tenant agreement could cede control to the town to cancel the exhibition.