sopac question mark

A question mark is turning heads on Nanaimo Ave East and Ellis Street.

It’s still unclear whether Penticton will be home to a new performing arts centre, but one thing is certain: the arts community is expanding.

City councillors heard Tuesday the former South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society is planning to update its name to the South Okanagan-Similkameen Arts Board, after a visioning workshop held in October brought together 18 voices from across the region.

Representatives from groups such as the Venables Theatre, the Okanagan-Similkameen School District and the Chamber of Commerce in Penticton were said to be present at the two-day workshop.

“To have that kind of expertise, sitting in various communities … the potential here is really pretty exciting,” said Glenn Sinclair, the treasurer for the society, said Wednesday.

The hope is a collective voice will be better heard by council, who Sinclair said he understands has been inundated by separate arts groups over the years.

“The mayor … had said, even before we went to council, that he was tired of the many voices that always seemed to be opening up and speaking. I don’t disagree with him on that. But now the conversation has changed,” said Sinclair, adding he believes the society going regional with one collective voice will have “a lot more resonance” with council.

Sinclair said the society has taken on three additional interim board members as they work towards becoming regional in an upcoming annual general meeting in February.

“At that point, everybody is going to have a very clear idea what the agenda is, what the board feels, questions that need to be asked,” said Sinclair. “My anticipation is we’ll have three or four questions this expanded board will have.”

But the fate of a vacant city-owned lot on Ellis that has long been earmarked for a performing arts centre remains up in the air.

Sinclair asked council to maintain the hold on the property at least until the society’s AGM.

Council heard from staff, though, that the hold will remain in place until a broader plan for city assets in downtown Penticton is complete in the next six to nine months.

The visioning workshop was funded by $5,000 each from the society, city and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. However, organizers were able to cut costs and are now returning $2,500 each to the city and RDOS.