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Cultural Circles

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the Cultural Circles that are keeping the downtown of Charlottetown alive these days. Just think about it: the Confederation Centre in the old Market Square - a place that brings together, [at least on an average] 700 ++ persons a night during the summer months and the ambience of the downtown attracts double that many everyday during that period. Add to that Province House, the PEI Council of The Arts and The Arts Guild, The MacKenzie Theatre, IT Centre, The Library and The Archives, The Crafts Council with their shop and Holland College. You can also include the privately run galleries and antique shops, and the bars that provide entertainment , and, yes, of course the City Cinema; a sophisticate centre for film watching.

Maybe, if you like playing house, you could add Beaconsfield to that circle or attend some of the events that occur in The Carriage House operated by the Museum and Heritage Foundation. Then take the circle to its next 360 degrees and add the University, Carrefour, BIS and the group of cinemas at the Charlottetown Mall and you begin to recognize the support system in the arts that exists in this small part of the world. We are very fortunate.

Contemplate our media people and just how supportive they are to all our cultural activities and they add some of their own. Last week I was out to say goodbye to Wayne Collins who for years has been the co-host on the CBC Morning Show with Karen Mair. Tears all around. Then I dropped off on the way home to welcome Bill McQuire back to the Guardian as City Editor. By the end of the week I was back saying good-bye to Lorne Yeo who for over 30 years has been an editor there. All people who care. Add The Buzz, our monthly arts magazine and CFCY Radio and you have to say we are well looked after.

On second floors, on main stages and in other nooks and grannies we have publishing houses , sound studios, dance groups, film people, the Symphony, Theatre PEI, poets, writers, organists etc. etc. etc.

Since last fall City Council has been obsessed with bring in a hockey team and now they've got it. Last week they were on the radio talking about how they needed billets for those players: big guys they said who eat a lot, but would become some family's big brother and everyone would live happily ever after. They were also announcing that they were going to spend something like $500,000. on the Civic Centre to make the necessary improvements to satisfy the teams needs. And that is only a small portion of the recreational budget.

The arts are different. Individuals have a creative need and they express it and ask people to come and see what they think. Watch. Listen. Yes, and even buy on occasion. While this goes on people move around our city talking, exchanging ideas and generally being a presence. Many of the participants live in spaces around town, they eat in restaurants, drink an odd beer here and there. They add buzz. Create ambience. On occasion everything ticks and they blow us out of the water with their success. Is the support the same for the arts as for sports? I don't think so.

As we see the mercantile scene change to big box stores and the franchises, the undistingtive streetscapes and the people places that such a direction creates is apalling. We must begin to review what really attracts us to a place and what we want to do about it.

Written Monday, May 12, 2003 at 10:20 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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