Back again: City to spend $12,500 for one-third contribution to Spirit Way Arts Centre business plan.

A year after a Phase 1 feasibility study was unveiled promoting a primarily aboriginal arts facility in Thompson, a spinoff known as Spirit Way Arts Centre has landed $12,500 for a Phase 2 contribution from the City of Thompson "to complete its business plan."

City council voted unanimously last week to pony up the money for its one-third contribution for the $37,500 business plan, which Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. and the Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) have agreed to match with equal contributions.

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Two consultants, Winnipeg-based art historian Pat Bovey, and Sarah Yates, owner of Gemma B. Publishing, also in Winnipeg, spoke in favour of a primarily aboriginal arts centre for Thompson at the Chamber of Commerce April 30, 2008.

The proposed centre is the final point - Poi of Interest #18 on what was known as the " Northern Centre of Aboriginal Art" on Spirit Way's originally conceived 18 points of interest walkway with a school for aboriginal arts.

The art centre project went on the backburner when it was discovered no suitable building was available in Thompson to house it, the chamber was told.

Bovey and Yates, in their March 29, 2008 report, wrote, "There are opportunities for the Arts Centre to develop partnerships with a number of organizations including:

University College of the North;

City of Thompson's Culture and Recreation Department;


local daycare organizations;

regional business and tourism sectors;

conference organizers.

"Approximately 300 to 350 artists in the North could have a potential interest in participating in the Arts Centre," Bovey and Yates said.

"Thompson is a thriving community, serving an immediate trade community of about 65,000. Culturally, it serves Manitoba's northern region of approximately 90,000. However, the visual arts have not had the opportunity to flourish as they might. The elements lacking for the visual arts in the region include:

Training opportunities for emerging artists;

Ongoing training for professional artists;

A gallery for the presentation of regional artwork and touring exhibitions;

Sales and promotional networks connecting northern artists to audiences and markets across Canada and around the world."

The Spirit Way Arts Centre "can be inclusive of both aboriginal and non- aboriginal peoples," but to maximize funding opportunities should have "a majority of aboriginal participants (at least 51 per cent as is the case with the Aboriginal Arts & Crafts and Tourism Council).

Spirit Way Inc. hired Bovey and Yates in February 2008 and their 45-page feasibility study was completed in less than two months.

In looking farther north to Nunavut, the authors note the territory has "Inuit art sales at $30 million per year" and "Cape Dorset has the highest concentration of artists per workforce capita in the country, at 23 per cent of its population."

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