Raising the roof for Coast Collective

By Mollie Kaye, September 2016

An arts oasis faces challenges without CRD funding—so throws a dance party.

Groove KitchenART IS A FORM OF LIFE SUPPORT. That’s not hyperbole. There’s enough bona fide quantitative research—and plain old anecdotal evidence—supporting this truth. Every small and large municipality in this administratively pixellated region has collectively invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies and public meetings to craft Official Community Plans (OCPs). These OCPs clearly demonstrate that citizens prioritize public funding of the arts as a vital part of their neighbourhoods and lives—and that dollar for dollar, no investment of civic resources offers a better return than building an arts infrastructure.

Yet the government-dispersed funds in the West Shore keep flowing toward… sports. This is the exasperating reality the dedicated visionaries of the Coast Collective Arts Centre (CCAC) face as they create the kind of multi-faceted, essential and accessible arts resource clearly defined in their West Shore municipality’s OCP, yet cannot access the significant coffers of the Capital Regional District (CRD) Arts Development Service grants, since Colwood doesn’t contribute. Cindy Moyer, executive director of Coast Collective, points out the window. “If we were two minutes that way, in View Royal, we would be eligible for those funds.”

Walking into CCAC’s new home, a generous expanse of pristine, modern, well-lit gallery space incorporated into a brand-new hotel complex adjacent to the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre, one could imagine they were visiting an auxiliary wing of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. After moving last winter from their charming but impractical heritage-home startup digs at the Havenwood Estate in Esquimalt Lagoon, their presence in this elegant and efficient space signals that this eight-year-old arts organization has fully matured.

Everything about the CCAC is top-notch; the art on display is stringently juried, skillfully executed and professionally presented; the gift shop’s elegant, diverse and affordable wares are all produced by the artist members of the Collective, who live in every one of the 13 municipalities that make up “Victoria.” A bright and spacious workshop offers artists of all ages and levels of ability year-round opportunities to learn new techniques. Everything about the place says “public institution.” And yet it is a private enterprise, run by dedicated, regular people—with little or no pay, and no safety net.

“The Coast Collective is the only non-profit art centre of its kind in our community,” explains Moyer. “We bring the arts alive for the public in a free-access gallery, showcase Vancouver Island talent, and contribute to the livelihood of hundreds of local artists and artisans. Now, in this new location, we can welcome people though our double glass doors, even with walkers or wheelchairs. We couldn’t do that before. Having accessibility for people with mobility issues was a deal-breaker. We’re also well-served by public transit. This location is better on all levels.”

This summer, within days of an August board meeting where the top agenda item was the CCAC’s potential demise come December, the organization’s first-ever gaming grant came through, securing their future—but only for the coming year, and no further. “We asked for $50,000, and got 30,” says Moyer; “30 was the absolute minimum amount we needed to keep going for another year.” The next big push is to petition Colwood to grant a permissive tax exemption on the property tax portion of CCAC’s lease at Westridge Landing—shaving a possible $10-12,000 off their annual rent payments.

Until CCAC is able to access more consistent sources of public funding, they must continue, as they have since their start in 2008, to earn their own way, relying on a steady stream of workshop participants and gift-shop sales. While no one would expect the Royal Theatre or the AGGV to cater solely to Downtown-core-dwellers, neither would one expect a resource like CCAC to be utilized only by residents of the West Shore. But this is the unique conundrum of our region: with all of the fragmentation brought on by having so many separate municipalities in a relatively small geographic area, how do you get people to overcome their perception that it’s “too far” to go “way out there,” even if it’s only a distance of 10 or 15 kilometres?

Perhaps a party will help. “Raise the Roof” is planned as a fundraiser for CCAC on October 15, featuring beloved local Latin-funk band Groove Kitchen, whose bass player happens to be Moyer’s husband. The band will play from 8pm till midnight, with light snacks served at 10pm. The organization is banking on healthy ticket sales, as well as generous bidding for silent auction items, which feature a diverse array of artists’ works and donations from area businesses.

If a few folks from Victoria find out that they don’t have to pack extra provisions for the short jaunt to Colwood, and have a great experience to boot, perhaps they’ll make a habit of it. As a collective community who benefits from a thriving and diverse arts landscape, we’d all be healthier for it.

“Raise the Roof” fundraiser for Coast Collective Art Centre, featuring Groove Kitchen. Saturday, October 15, 8-pm-12am, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91, 761 Station Avenue, Langford, BC. Tickets $22.40, www.coastcollective.ca or 250-391-5522. Coast Collective Gallery & Artisans Gift Shop hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11am-5pm, #103 - 318 Wale Road, Colwood.

Mollie Kaye is a local writer and musician who would like to see all of the arts resources in our region honoured, recognized, enjoyed, and supported financially.