We need more staff, arts leaders tell Coquitlam council

Grant requests for five Coquitlam arts groups total more than $9.1M

Leaders of five arts and culture organizations that get grants from the city of Coquitlam came before council Tuesday to talk about their plans for next year.

And all five spoke about how their staff are struggling, with programs near or at capacity and some in venues that aren’t meeting demands.

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Here’s a summary of what council heard:


Todd Gnissios, executive director of the Coquitlam Public Library, which has two branches (City Centre and Poirier), pitched a $6-million grant request that included $540,141 for new priorities: $85,141 to add a full-time library technician position; $250,000 for collections; $155,000 for a new Library Link mobile library vehicle (to reach neighbourhoods like Burquitlam and Burke Mountain that don’t have nearby service); and $50,000 for extra janitorial maintenance.

Gnissios said the parking lot, attached to the Henderson Centre mall, elevator landings and a stairwell need ongoing cleaning and garbage pickup because of heavy use, with many access points becoming hangouts.

Last year, the library saw a 3% uptick in visits (to 877,317) with 10% more library users logging into public computers and 8% more connecting to its WiFi. More than 1.2 million items went into circulation, he said.

“The library is not the quiet place of yesteryear,” Gnissios told council, adding human resources have been “compressed” with retirements while new roles have been created to keep up with IT, marketing, programming, community liaison and the help desk.



Place des Arts also has seen a large jump in participation, executive director Joan McCauley told council, with annual visits up 15% over the past five years.

The non-profit group is asking for nearly $1.1 million in grants that would also include $44,180 for a new community engagement co-ordinator to promote the Maillardville hub at events and to organize youth performance-based programs.

McCauley said the organization is stretched so thin it’s “at risk of employee burnout” if it doesn’t hire more staff; it also doesn’t want to raise program fees to pay for additional workers, she said.

Last year, Place des Arts received $2.7 million in city and federal government funding as well as $1.6 million (or 62%) from classes and private lessons — many of which are at capacity in constrained spaces, she said.

Meanwhile, McCauley and the board applauded council for endorsing plans to redevelop the Brunette Avenue building that, if approved in December, will see Place des Arts, Coquitlam Heritage and Coquitlam Archives under one roof in a few years.


Place des Arts' executive director Joan McCauley.



Candrina Bailey, executive director of the Coquitlam Heritage Society, which runs its operations out of the historic Mackin House, also called on council to support its programs with more staff.

The group is asking for a $309,299 grant for next year’s operations that would also include a part-time assistant for Bailey, who works 20 hours a week and logs substantial overtime to run the organization. “It’s becoming more and more challenging,” Bailey said of the job.

Besides the hire, at an annual cost of $30,000, the group also needs to translate its self-guided tour brochure into seven languages to distribute to participants who don’t speak English.

Bailey said its exhibits and programs often attract a diverse population.



With the upcoming redevelopment of Place Maillardville, executive director Gord Pederson said the organization will be out of pocket with Club Bel Age leaving the building.

It’s asking council to provide $5,400 to make up two years of lost rental revenue as well as $38,330 to fund a part-time marketing and promotions position, $10,221 to increase two manager jobs to full-time status and $9,600 for IT support, for a total city grant request of $584,026.

Like other arts and culture societies in Coquitlam, Place Maillardville also has experienced a surge in participation, with a 52% hike in registrations and a 48% increase in visits to the centre over the past five years.

The new building is expected to be ready by the end of 2021.



Board treasurer Andrew Richardson said the Pinetree Way facility opened in 1996 to serve the community for 25 years and “time’s up” to rethink its future: Its goal is for an additional theatre, bigger art gallery, dance space and an arts education venue.

Richardson spoke of the centre’s busy year with performances, school-based programs, art exhibits and rentals, among other things.

He also pointed out staffing pressures and potential liabilities with the expensive gear for multimedia shows.

Evergreen is asking for a $1-million grant, with six new requests to pay for: a youth programmer/marketing position ($47,200); a fund development manager (($59,000); cleaning and maintenance ($20,000); moveable gallery walls ($25,000); glass doors for the gallery ($10,000); and technical upgrades to the rehearsal hall ($9,000).

Coun. Trish Mandewo challenged ECC managers to find additional revenue with outside grants and to form partnerships while Coun. Craig Hodge questioned the $1.25-per-ticket improvement fee, which last year generated about $30,000 for future capital projects, said managers David Mann and Katherine Dennis. 


The Evergreen Cultural Centre's David Mann, Katherine Dennis and Andrew Richardson.



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