The Stratford Arts and Culture Collective was formed in 2016 with the objective of creating an all inclusive venue to serve the arts and culture needs of Stratford and area citizens.
We began by exploring the Grand Trunk Community Hub as a location for the centre, including hosting a Design Charette to explore development possibilities in November 2018.
A CONVERGENCE OF INTERESTS
In December 2018, we were made aware of the need for redevelopment of the historic Knox Presbyterian Church, a heritage building which anchors the east end of the main street in downtown Stratford. As that location could accommodate a large part of our vision, we began to explore the convergence of needs and opportunities shared by the two groups.
In fall, 2019, the SACC commissioned TCI Management Consultants (Toronto) to conduct a detailed Feasibility Study, with the financial support of the City of Stratford, The Ontario Trillium Foundation and SPARC (Supporting Performing Arts in Rural Communities). The study examined three key questions:
What effects will an Arts and Culture Centre have on the City of Stratford and area?
What is the most appropriate model for the Centre to be developed, owned and operated?
How can the Centre be sustained?
After extensive research, interviews, benchmarking, focus groups, and online surveys, the study was completed on November 30, 2019. The report on the consultants’ findings is positive and supportive of the concept of creating an Arts and Culture Centre for Stratford citizens.
THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC: 2020 – 2022
Though the pandemic brought the world to a halt, the SACC and Knox continued to meet virtually to discuss how the future relationship might evolve. Speculative, conceptual drawings of the site were created, discussed and evaluated. Meetings provided direction to support the ongoing and growing partnership between the two groups, often with the assistance of Trinity Centres Foundation. A developer entered the discussions during the early months of 2022, who made an offer to purchase the site. The offer was accepted by the Knox congregation on March 23, 2022. Read the Media Release here.
The SACC continues to move the project forward on several fronts:
Developing a strong and diverse founding SACC Board of Directors to guide operations going forward.
Continuing our work as a prime advocate and voice for local arts and culture in consultation with a variety of other organizations
Acquiring charitable status to support grant applications and fundraising
JUNE 2022-MARCH 2023
With the purchase of Knox Church in June 2022, SACC began working with BMI Group to envision a new centre. SACC received a total of $100,000 in grants towards proposed work at Copperlight. Enthusiasm was high as consultants in a variety of disciplines including theatre design, architecture, board development, and structural engineering created reports with positive signposts. Our management consultants prepared a business plan. We purchased 250 chairs to replace most of the pews as a tangible sign that the SACC was committed in every way to the Knox (now Copperlight) site.
A long-term lease for office space within Copperlight gave us a base of operations. However, the big piece of the puzzle for the successful creation of a new, community-led arts and culture centre eluded us, as three unique consultant-based scenarios for a long-term lease of the performance space were unsuccessful. It was at this point that the Board made the difficult decision to leave Copperlight.