Opinion: The Banff Centre can turn out to be an arts group as soon as once more

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With the current firing of the board and appointment of a brand new administrator on the Banff Centre, observers have been drawing a direct comparability to the provincial authorities’s strategy to Alberta Well being Providers (AHS) and questioning about the way forward for this once-celebrated cultural establishment.

However the reality is the sort of drastic motion is lengthy overdue.

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It’s a much-needed “reset” for an establishment that misplaced its manner, and one can solely hope it isn’t too late to avoid wasting the nice bits, say goodbye to the unhealthy, and reclaim the centre because the beacon of artwork, creativity and daring concepts that it was. When you peel again its glitzy galas and lengthy record of cultural icons who visited its mountainside campus, the Banff Centre’s true heartbeat will be discovered behind a horse-drawn carriage — the place, within the Thirties, actors and dramaturges toured Alberta communities, believing that their creativity was the remedy for a citizenry exhausted by financial upheaval and struggle.

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Outdoors the humanities sector, the centre had turn out to be a poster little one for a non-profit actually embracing social enterprise. With so many different arts organizations going through declines in donations and sponsorships, Banff used its largest asset — its 40-plus acres atop Tunnel Mountain — to construct a profitable lodge and convention enterprise. Immediately, its largest facility just isn’t an area devoted to the humanities, however a darkish gray, monolithic convention centre higher suited to an airport growth challenge than an arts campus.

However behind the scenes, notably previously decade, these working in arts training have lengthy shaken our heads, as a result of a lot of the centre’s beneficial work in supporting and showcasing rising artists appeared to turn out to be secondary to the pursuit of personal {dollars}. Current media protection of the firing of its board solely offers additional proof of this concern, with its governors embroiled in a debate about whether or not its subsequent CEO ought to come from the humanities or the hospitality sector. Good grief.

Very like the information across the province’s plans to interrupt aside AHS, it’s time to interrupt aside the Banff Centre. It must spin off its lodge and convention enterprise and its property in order that the personal sector can do what it does finest.

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The centre can then concentrate on what it does finest: leaning into its mandate as a sophisticated place of studying for the humanities. It could possibly then begin to revitalize its dated arts-learning services and reposition itself as an incubator of thought and creativity.

With its annual non-conference revenues averaging $28 million, together with a wholesome endowment fund of $45 million, the centre has the monetary capability, the donor base and nonetheless some degree of public goodwill to make this occur. Many organizations — together with the one I lead — would give a lot to have this type of infrastructure, but proceed to do nationally impactful work for lower than a tenth of the sources.

Greater than 90 years have handed for the reason that founding of the centre, and it seems to be like historical past is starting to repeat itself. Financial upheaval, struggle and a polarized political discourse is dividing our communities like by no means earlier than. The Banff Centre proved, virtually a century in the past, that the humanities generally is a medium for therapeutic and bringing communities again collectively, and I imagine it has the mandate — a accountability — to display that after once more.

If this isn’t the time to make the arduous choice to return to its founding function, then I don’t know what’s.

Jung-Suk (JS) Ryu is the president and CEO of the Nationwide accessArts Centre, Canada’s largest incapacity arts group.

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