“Our goal is to make the arts something for everyone,” says Aurora van Roon, Communications Coordinator at Place des Arts.
“And we do mean that.”
No one would have any reason to doubt her. This, in essence, has been Place des Arts’ guiding mission for almost half a century.
And perhaps never before in the Coquitlam-based arts centre’s 49-year history has the arts felt as important to people as it does right now.
As staff gets ready to open Place des Arts’ doors for its 2021-2022 season—following one of the most unusual and isolating years in modern history—van Roon and her colleagues can sense everyone’s eagerness to reconnect with the arts, with each other and with themselves.
“We’re so excited to open ourselves up again,” she says. While the centre was able to quickly pivot last year to online classes (which proved very popular and attracted people from far outside the region), “We know our students prefer learning in person. It helps with music when you can be in the room where it’s being played, and with dance when you can see it up close. We’re happy that so many people were able to find a way to engage with us or try new things, even if they weren’t sure about it because online was new for them—and it was new for us!”
The story of Place des Arts began in 1972 when Fern Bouvier, an educator who had relocated from Toronto, recognized the need for more arts education in Coquitlam, in an inclusive space that welcomed people of all ages and interests. Bouvier convinced the City to grant him access to a disused heritage house on Brunette Avenue, but he had only six months to prove himself, or the house would be taken back.
Today, that house is but a small part of an 18,000-square foot facility that offers top-quality education in dance, literature, music, theatre and visual arts—plus children’s art camps, scholarships and bursaries, and much more.
“I don’t think anyone rivals us in terms of offering such a wide range of classes for such a wide range of people,” says van Roon. “And we always try to make ourselves as accessible as possible.”
That includes prices for programs and individual classes that are often a fraction of a comparable education elsewhere. Van Roon points out that some seasonal programs, comprised of 12 classes, cost only $120.
This has been especially important since the beginning of the pandemic. “More individuals and families than ever are sensitive to price. We understand how hard it hit a lot of people—especially those who were already in need.”
As the masses begin venturing out into the world again, learning or reconnecting with an artistic practice might be the perfect way to restore one’s energy and spirit after a challenging year. Place des Arts has always believed the arts can be a healing force—in both good and bad times.
An example is the new Art for the Soul program for students 18 and up, which helps enhance perception, cognitive processing, creativity and self-expression through painting, drawing, collaging, mixed media and more.
“You can use your feelings as a way to guide your art,” says van Roon. “‘Art as wellness’ is something that’s always been important to us. We try to show that the arts aren’t just something to do. It’s also something that helps your brain and body. It helps with how you process emotions and how you engage with other people. It can boost your confidence. Improve dexterity and coordination. What it can do for people is limitless.”
Registration for Place des Arts’ 2021/2022 season opens Monday, July 19. For more information and to view the complete list of programs, visit placedesarts.ca.