The Bonnyville Fine Arts Society plans for the Future

The Bonnyville Fine Arts Society is raising awareness and funds through a series of concerts and public engagements in the hopes of building a new theatre.

The society currently uses the Lyle Victor Albert Centre as its theatre. However, with modernization plans in the works for Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) the Fine Arts Society has begun planning for the future.

The possibility that the theatre may be demolished to make room for the school renovations, coupled with the age of the facility has the group looking at building new. Last week, the society presented to Bonnyville Town Council, with ideas on their future plans.

Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski, “the Lyle Vic has been such a fantastic little jewel. I intimately know that place. The venue is dated, it’s small and the space is limited for a lot of uses.” Audiences have far outgrown the seating capacity, adds the mayor.

“Some of the biggest names got their start at the facility,” the mayor named a few, “we’ve got international stars and playwrights that came from Bonnyville, as a result of the current facility.” Some of those big names include Clayton Bellamy, Brett Kissel, and the Kehewin Dancers.

Bonnyville native, Carmen Lucia, is another star that got her start at the Lyle Victor Albert Centre. She was the first artist to play, in a series of fundraising performances, for the new theatre. Her January 27th show sold out and raised over $5,000 to the new theatre fund.

Corita Vachon, with the Bonnyville Fine Arts Society, says the event truly displayed the community’s support for a new theatre, “the house was full. Support in our community is amazing! The stage has always embraced new aspiring artists.”

On February 24th, the theatre welcomed Canadian country recording artist and songwriter, Mike Plum. Again to a full house. Special guests Clayton Bellamy, Jenny Plume, and Shane Larmand all took the stage with Mike Plum throughout the evening. Approximately, $5,500 was raised from ticket sales, 50/50 and auctions during the event.

Mayor Sobolewski, who also sits on the board for the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre, says one of the possibilities the board and the Society are looking at is building onto the Centennial Centre (C2).

“With the work that we’re doing at the C2, it seems to be growing in momentum,” the mayor explains that the C2 board is looking at different expansion ideas and whether or not they are feasible. The Society has spoken with the board to give ideas on what a theatre at the C2 may look like, “they provided a sound and lighting technician and were able to provide us with a couple of templates that are being used in Alberta.” Those templates came from Morinville, Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray, says the mayor.

There’s a lot of things that can be done and this is necessary for the community – Gene Sobolewski, Mayor Town of Bonnyville.

“There always was a phase 2 and a phase 3 [for the Centennial Centre]. For space and organization, the C2 would be a natural fit for a theatre,” Sobolewski says the board is merely in initial discussions about this possibility. “It’s strictly preliminary.”

“We would have to discuss with both Councils (Town and Municipal District of Bonnyville). We would also look into what grants are available and have community discussions,” the mayor explains plans are long from being formulated.

“There’s a lot of pieces that are starting to fall into place. It’ll likely fall into the hands of the two municipalities and we’ll have to work together to figure out how we can make it happen. We’ve been very clear, throughout this process, that whatever is built, it’s going to be a multi-use and multi-cultural facility,” states Mayor Sobolewski.

Vachon says the series of concerts are about more than fundraising, “more than merely raising money towards a new theatre. It’s about informing the public that we will soon be losing our only community theatre. It’s about obtaining community support for a new community theatre.” The Bonnyville Fine Arts Society would like to keep the conversation in the forefront of the community’s minds.

“One of the topics that we have discussed is the Lyle Victor coming down and we don’t know [if that’ll happen] and neither does the arts,” regardless of what comes of the modernization project and the future of the Lyle Victor, plans will continue to move forward for a new theatre, says the mayor, “there’s so much planning that needs to happen, we need to get ready.”

Plans are underway for the next fundraising concert. On Saturday, March 24th, Daniel Gervais will be performing at the Lyle Victor; with Juno Award winning artists,  Jeremiah McDade and Keith Rempel. For more information, follow the Bonnyville Fine Arts Society on Facebook.