Graham Currie , President – The Cheremosh Ukrainian dancers have called several buildings “home” during their 44-year history. Eight years ago, after an ambitious initiative to own our own studio, that dream was realized when Cheremosh purchased the St. Paul Roman Catholic church in the historic northeast Edmonton community of Beverly. This in itself was a huge accomplishment. Volunteers within the organization worked together to build the studio floor to make the studio ready for rehearsals. However, until recently, the facility largely resembled a church loosely modified to accommodate for change rooms, a costume loft, office, etc.
Realizing we needed significant improvements, past presidents Jason Golinowski and Allison Scott applied for the CFEP grant. After receiving the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) matching grant from the government of Alberta approximately 2 years ago, we were able to start turning our studio into a rehearsal space that an accomplished performing arts organization such as Cheremosh and internationally acclaimed artistic director/choreography, Mykola Kanevets deserves.
The grant was for $116,000 that we then had to match to total $232,000. $232,000 sounds like a lot of money, however as we soon discovered, when making structural and functional improvements (such as a roof and boiler) to an aging building, $232,000 dwindles very quickly. Fortunately we had skilled and dedicated renovation committee co--chairs, past president Mike Bortnick and his wife, Joanne Bortnick, who discovered, and successfully secured, another source of funding from the federal government: Western Economic Diversification Canada’s, Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund (CIIF). This grant awarded Cheremosh $192,552 which we also had to match. Fortunately we were able to offset the matching dollars against the previous CFEP grant. With the funds we had already allocated internally to match CFEP, the CFEP grant and CIIF, we had a budget of close to $400,000 to complete our renovations.
With this budget, our studio was transformed from a make-do studio into a professional arts studio with functionally designed rooms, updated technology, and a safe and aesthetically impressive studio for our dancers, members, staff and guests.
Not only does this add to the comfort of performers but it also attracts quality performers. It encourages better development of young people into professional performers by providing the resources they need in a safe training and rehearsing space.
Cheremosh hopes that our space becomes an influence on other studios whether rented or owned. Our studio was already a landmark of northeast Edmonton, now after setting a new standard we are seeing more attention not only to our organization, school, and flagship dance company, Cheremosh; but also to our impressive facility. We hope that these improvements will influence the importance of quality facilities for arts organizations to operate functionally as a business and an effective place of rehearsing, training and learning. We expect quality from our standard educational institutions with regard to resources, amenities and the facility as a whole, and arts education should be no exception.
One of the keys to attaining these grants was the dedicated, skilled and passionate volunteers and staff that our organization has, but without the written support and lobbying of political figures from all levels of government as well as our media supporters’ public profiling of our initiatives, attaining grants such as these would be difficult to say the least.
This is why it is important to ask ourselves not only what can the community do for us, but what can we do for the community. By asking ourselves these questions we can focus ourselves on how we contribute to the development of the City of Edmonton, as well as Alberta, and Canada; and in turn the relationships established by political and community leaders will be strongly evident.
As I stated in my speech at our re-boot event in November, involvement in arts organizations (just like other community, sports and social organizations) develop communities and cities as well as community leaders. The discipline and practical experience learned from those involved in arts organizations provide everyday applications of municipal development, and in fact the economic and professional development of arts organizations is certainly one of the cornerstones of developing a thriving municipality.