Arts INC – Project Background
Arts Council Wood Buffalo is in the process of creating an arts incubator space in downtown Fort McMurray. Arts INC will be designed to support and nurture a diverse range of arts and culture for residents across the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region.
This multi-year project began in 2018 with the Arts Recovery Project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross following the 2016 wildfire. Engagement with artists and community-at-large demonstrated the need for an affordable space for artists to work and create. Review the Post Fire Recovery in the Arts Strategic Plan to learn more about the history and process that planted the seed for Arts Inc.
In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the former Landmark cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.
The study was completed in early 2021.
Feasibility Study Findings: Former Landmark Cinema Building
After engaging with the public in Fall 2020 and completing a feasibility study with Akron Engineering in March 2021, the findings are now available. Review the Arts Incubator Feasibility Study.
“To conclude, based on Akron’s comprehensive research, which is summarized in the Feasibility Study Report, we confirm that the former downtown Landmark Cinema Building is an excellent choice to be repurposed to an arts incubator for Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. When completed, this great initiative will be a value-added asset for the community and the fruition of Arts Council Wood Buffalo’s Strategic Priorities.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. XI)
“The Cinema Building can be efficiently remodeled to fit the needs of ACWB to house an arts incubator space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space and to host special events.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)
Public Engagement Findings
“Based on the many positive responses to the engagement survey, it is evident that many of our community residents appreciate the need for an arts incubator space and want to participate in it. Having this project come to fruition will be a red-letter day, as there will be a time when forces come together to create something not only creatively impressive, but economically vibrant and self-sustaining.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)
Highlights – Survey Response Statistics:
- Public engagement survey ran from Sept. 16 – Oct. 6
- 410 individuals responded to the survey
- 83.9% agree that an arts incubator would be beneficial for the Wood Buffalo region
- 67.5% were not satisfied with the types of arts facilities currently available in the Wood Buffalo region
- 58% were not satisfied with the arts, cultural and entertainment opportunities in the region
- 45.9% did not self-identify as an artist
- 43.4% self-identified as an artist
Review more Engagement Survey Findings here.
“It has been proven in other communities in Canada, and around the globe, that art spaces create huge benefits to the residents economically, socially, and ensure sustainable growth. Our October 2020 engagement survey revealed the excitement of the community to have an arts incubator space developed in the region.
Communities that have embraced art incubators…are driving new business, spurring innovation, attracting talent and investment and, in the process, accelerating community development and improving the overall quality of life for their residents.” (Arts Incubator Feasibility Study, pg. 113)
In addition, Arts INC is in line with a number of goals and objectives as identified by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:
- Culture Master Plan
- Downtown Revitalization Plan
- Social Sustainability Plan
- Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022
The first milestone to purchase the future Arts INC property on Manning Avenue in downtown Fort McMurray has been accomplished. Now, formal design and planning will be done to repurpose the property into Arts INC as envisioned by our community.
Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the property and get it into operation.
Learn More About This Project – FAQs
Q – What’s an arts incubator?
A – An arts incubator is a purpose-built space that can be used as a centre for artists to gather and work, a venue for performances, workshops and galleries, a community gathering space, and even host events and festivals. Examples include cSPACE King Edward in Calgary or Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design in Nova Scotia.
Q – Where will Arts INC be located?
A – The future Arts INC property is located in downtown Fort McMurray on Manning Avenue. The goal is to remodel the building into an arts incubator space that can support arts, culture, business, and the community at large.
Q – Why did you choose that location?
A – The former cinema building is no longer in use and has now been purchased by ACWB. The property presents many options and opportunities that are closely linked to the arts incubator concept, including a theatre, movie and rehearsal space, large rooms, and outdoor space for parking, markets, and events.
In addition, the building is located in the downtown area, which has been identified by local government as an area for redevelopment. Findings from public engagement by the Municipality has shown that this area is ideal for arts and cultural space as well as economic development. Arts INC will be a catalyst for downtown revitalization.
Q – What is a feasibility study?
A – A feasibility study will help determine if and how the former cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project.
Q – Where did you get funding for the feasibility study?
A – In early 2020, ACWB received funding from Community Foundations of Canada via the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how the cinema building could be repurposed for an arts incubator, identify opportunities and challenges, and begin the process of envisioning and designing the project. Arts Council worked with Akron Engineering on this feasibility study, and engaged with artists, residents, stakeholders, and businesses to get feedback on the project to evaluate the benefits for everyone in our region.
Q – Where do you plan to get money to pay for Arts INC?
A – Part of the feasibility study is determining the cost of this project. From there, Arts Council developed a Fund Development Plan.
Additionally, there are a number of grants available provincially, federally, and through private corporations that support the development of arts infrastructure. Examples of potential funders could be Canadian Heritage and Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
Q – Will any you be using municipal tax dollars to fund Arts INC?
A – Arts Council is honoured to have the support of our municipal government for this project. On June 29, 2022, Mayor and Council unanimously voted to grant $5 million to fund Arts INC.
Arts Council is always open to discuss opportunities and synergies with individuals and organizations that could benefit everyone in the region.
Q – I live in a rural community. How will Arts INC benefit me?
A – Arts INC is located in Fort McMurray, but we welcome participation from all communities and groups from across the region.
Once established, Arts INC will use a “spoke and hub model” to provide services to rural and Indigenous communities. The Artist in Residence program, for example, could be inclusive of the rural areas – artists would spend time mentoring residents in rural communities, but the artists would create their work at Arts INC in Fort McMurray.
Q – How can I help make this project a reality?
A – Anyone wishing to donate to this project may do so through our website – donations $50 and over are eligible for a Charitable Donation Receipt and donors can specify which program, project, or service they wish their donation dollars to support, including Arts INC.
Q – How much will Arts INC cost to build?
A – Based on the Feasibility Study, the current cost estimate for this project is $14.7M to purchase and repurpose the property and get it into operations.
Q – How much does the property cost?
A – A fair market assessment determined the value of the property and was completed by an independent third-party assessor.
Q – How much will Arts INC cost to operate?
A – It is difficult to know what the operation costs will be before a detailed design of Arts INC has been finalized. We are working with Project Management professionals and consultants to better understand costs in greater detail.
Arts Council has also created a 7-Year projected operating plan and budget to ensure success of the project.
Q – Will Arts INC earn revenue?
A – Yes. One of Arts Council’s financial goals for this project is that Arts INC be self-sustaining within 4-5 years of opening its doors to the community. This means that Arts INC would eventually operate based on revenues earned from serving the community, as well as from sponsorships and donors.
Q – What will happen with the profits/revenue earned by Arts INC?
A – Arts INC is based on a business model known as a ‘social enterprise.’ Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist. A social enterprise is a revenue-generating business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders and owners. (Definition provided by BC Centre for Social Enterprise.)