GRAFFITI THEATRE COMPANY SOCIETY
Creating Theatre and Supporting Community Preforming Arts
Graffiti Theatre Company Society is a charitable organization devoted to the preforming arts community on Salt Spring Island through the creation of original and classical presentation, the sharing of community theatre resources and supporting the efforts and initiatives of other community organization.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2021
In Partnership with The Circle Education Society and Islanders Working Against Violence and Abuse, Graffiti has collaborated with local artists and activists to create a virtual event in honour of International Women's Day.
The community of Salt Spring Island is in need of community spaces for the performing arts and indoor recreational programming. The community based organizations that provide indoor sport or arts programming for children, youth and adults are managing or struggling to operate in inappropriate venues; the current model relies on community spaces that are dispersed, often unsuitable, expensive and or unavailable due to increasing demand for space.
A central community facility that was designed to accommodate both recreational and arts programming primarily but not exclusively for children and youth would create opportunity for families and adults in our community by increasing access to programming and offering the chance to our existing community based organizations to grow and develop their offerings.
Graffiti Theatre has received a grant from the Salt Spring Foundation to undertake a study to determine and describe the community needs for such a facility and possible solutions to the challenges of many overlapping groups.
In order to solve our community space issues, we need to outline them clearly and explore many solutions. Please help us by following this link to our community survey. LINK to Community Survey
Facility Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study
With the support of the Salt Spring Foundation, the research and publishing of this study has been a result of a multi-year community collaboration begun with the intention of finding solutions in terms of facility deficits for the initiating groups as well as other community groups identified as being “underhoused’ for the purposes of their activities.
Initially, James Cowan, a founding board member of Saltspring Gymnastics and Tsunami Circus as well as a collaborator of Graffiti Theatre and other performing arts groups, developed a conceptual design for a facility that could meet some of the existing community space deficits for those groups and groups such performing arts groups and GISPA. This design was shared with a small group of leaders in the performing arts community for feedback and I was enlisted as the Director of Graffiti Theatre to pursue funding to conduct a Feasibility Study and Needs Assessment for the conceptual facility and the existing community deficit. This initiative was undertaken in an earnest attempt to create a neutral and sincere description of community need and will around space for the activities of our non-profit sector including charities and other non-governmental organizations. A multi-use model was proposed as the cross pollination of parents, volunteers, board members, staff and participants was seen to potentially strengthen community relationships and increase participation and subsequently organizational potential and capacity for users of the facility.
We feel the following document represents a neutral and fair perspective both of our community need and the potential direction a solution could follow. In the process of the development of this document, there were some learning opportunities and observations that we felt important to highlight as the initiator and key collaborator in this process.
During the course of the survey and interview process, SD64 introduced a potential for reconfiguration of our school district that would leave the current middle school, potentially available for community use. A vote to pass the motion to carry through this reconfiguration is expected to begin this process in early February leaving a portion of the building (perhaps the south wing) available for a lease as early as the Fall 2021. The building is expected to be in use in some capacity for students potentially through 2023 if the School District receives a grant to perform seismic upgrades on Salt Spring Elementary School. This study was not designed with the potential use of this large facility in mind, however the timing of this announcement meant that it was explored and included in the stakeholder conversations. During the course of these discussions, clarifications about the future of this building should be noted; SD64 is bound to ensure the building remains a public resource and is bound to choose to enter a lease with an organization that has a plan for the building that is of great community benefit, is not operating for profit and has a business plan, as well as the organizational financial and structural capital to manage and maintain such a large facility. As the CRD has the organizational and financial capacity to potentially lease this facility and help to repurpose the space for the many community groups in need, we suggest that the groups and the respective leaders who have current space challenges work with the CRD as an interagency working group in order to discuss potential realistic solutions. The lack of a solid community facility plan was also noted in the report, it is our suggesting that the CRD/PARC move forward in identifying more clearly our community deficits and create a plan based on our priorities and will.
The “S.P.A.R.C.” facility has support based on the findings of this report, specifically the need for a black box theatre and space appropriate for the music groups and choir seemed to emerge as important and supported by passionate representatives. The need for a central location was identified as very important to users and organizations and the lack of appropriate facilities was directly linked to the ability of many organizations surveyed to expand and evolve their programming. It should be noted that there was also strong resistance to the idea of a new facility, some direct emails and comments during meetings point to extreme disappointment over the current management of other community facilities and or the feeling that there are other community issues that should be addressed instead. There is a perception among many community members that saying “yes” to multi-use facilities would be saying “no” to addressing other community deficits including housing, a skating rink, pool expansion and infant day care to identify a few.
It should be noted that in many of the informal discussions that took place while recruiting community participation in the study; the need for after school care, Friday programming and more infant toddler care was brought up many times.
Another important consideration that emerged was the need for the involvement and contribution of the indigenous community, and that the importance of representations from BIPOC community members and other community-based organizations in the development of new or repurposing of existing facilities. It is important to recognize these inclusions should be a priority in order to address issues of entitlement, inclusion and access to community spaces and programming.
During the many communications and meetings both included in the information gathering and peripheral to the study an unforeseen and extremely important theme around community development on Salt Spring Island emerged. Community conversations reflected that and information gathering processes around community changes, facility upgrades or development, community land use or community governance, there is a historically dysfunctional and unhelpful communication style that infects our community discourse when there are differences of opinions or agendas. Many community leaders and contributors reported feeling personally attacked, harassed during similar processes and community members reported that they feel intimidated from getting involved in public discussions due to witnessing or experiencing aggressive retaliation for sharing ideas or proposing/supporting certain initiatives. During the course of this survey, I experienced some of this treatment and it has felt extremely discouraging and upsetting. In addition, our survey instruments with seemingly out of ill will towards the proposal, Graffiti as an organization or me personally; people entering comments and content designed to disrupt the process or “campaign” for their to the need for the involvement of a third party data specialist to ensure only data that was productive and sound was included. This tampering or sabotage was reported as a common issue in the public feedback process by other leaders.
We would suggest that moving forward on the repurposing and development of any community facilities should include meetings and discussions that are professionally moderated. It would be valuable to have communication expectations explicitly outlined in online and in-person discussions and feedback opportunities. Our organization will be committed to finding opportunities to participate and support the provision of community education around community development and proactive and respectful organizational communication.
Graffiti’s hope moving forward in working towards solutions around community space is that we can be a positive force in helping to facilitate, organize and support the community groups that are needing safe, and appropriate spaces to carry out the important work they do with the recognition that working together, and inclusively will ultimately be of community benefit in process and result.
Thank you again to all the community members who supported this process and spent the time to answer the survey and participate in the interview process with sincerity and the Salt Spring Foundation for the acknowledgement of this community issue and the investment in this report.
Graffiti Theatre respectfully acknowledges that our existing community and any future developments are on the unceded traditional territories of the of the Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN speaking people, who continue to use and steward these lands
Graffiti Theatre Company Society