March 30, 2023
The Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC) has announced that it has stepped back from all planning and other activity related to the development of a performance space at the former Knox Presbyterian Church location. The BMI Group purchased the church from the congregation in 2022 and entered a dialogue with SACC to convert the sanctuary space into a theatre. The site, now known as Copperlight, was the focus of an ambitious plan to create a modern, well-equipped, and affordable performance stage for the local arts and culture community in the heart of Stratford.
“Over the past several years, the leadership of SACC has looked at a variety of options in pursuit of the dream of an accessible downtown location for local artistic expression of all kinds,” said Ron Dodson, Co-Chair of the SACC Board. “Last year, with the sale of the church to BMI, we were hopeful that the Knox heritage site on Ontario Street was the best chance to realize that vision. Regrettably, we have been unable to reach consensus with BMI about how the project should move forward.”
BMI and SACC have been engaged in this dialogue about the future of the site since the sale was confirmed. In recent weeks, it became apparent that the owner and the arts collective could not find common ground about the future of the church site and how it might support the local arts scene to serve the broader community.
SACC will now take time to review its future priorities and plans. Over the last year, the arts advocacy organization has gained significant knowledge and expertise about how to retrofit a building so it can serve as a functional theatre space. Business planning exercises and input from various expert theatre consultants has helped the group better understand the dimensions of facility operations, architectural design, audience services, and technical requirements including acoustics.
“In consultation with our supporters, the SACC hopes to broaden the conversation about community-driven arts and culture in Stratford,” says SACC Co-Chair Chris Leberg. “We will be looking for ways to establish a new path forward, and to support recommendations and directions arising from those consultations.”
SACC would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the many arts and culture organizations, and the volunteers associated with them, that worked so diligently over many years in support of this vision for a new, purpose-built arts venue for Stratford. Special thanks go out to the members of the SACC Steering Committee who provided oversight and energy to the entire initiative. The support of a variety of local and government funders is also tremendously appreciated. As this project continues to evolve, the SACC commits to move onward with purpose and resilience to meet the needs of this creative community that values the arts.