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The end is nigh for ARCC?

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, July 15, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - For more than a decade, a group of Yellowknife artists dreamt of opening an artist-run community centre, but it wasn't until one of the city's largest developers donated a temporary space earlier this year, the old Pentecostal Church on 49 Street, that the dream became reality.

"That was the starting point for the church and the ARCC project - we have a venue, get it rolling and then people will understand," said Matthew Grogono, a member of the Artist Run Community Centre's board and one of the project's original proponents. "Once it's a physical, tangible thing, they can feel it, they can touch it, they can understand it."

Things came together last winter while Grogono was trying to raise funds for the Cabin Fever Musical Festival, organized by Music NWT.

"We made a list of people with over $1 million," he explained, "and we contacted them on Valentine's Day and said, 'isn't it a lovely day, Valentine's Day, and we all love the arts, right?' And they said 'yes,' and I said, 'show me how much,' and Les Rocher was kind enough to show me his empty church."

Rocher, president of Homes North, has owned the old Pentecostal Church for about two years. He is currently waiting to transfer the land to the GNWT. He said since it was free and Grogono asked for help, he decided to donate the space until the pending deal was finalized.

"They needed a place to do their thing," Rocher said. "It wasn't being utilized at the present time, so I told them they could use it in the interim.

"I thought it could be something good for the community."

The first event held in the church was a silk screening workshop in March, where participants made T-shirts that read, "What's a church for?" Next was a concert by Yellowknife band Love's Fist, the recent winners of the Music in the Park contest. And from there, the momentum grew and the crowds grew with it, making ARCC an arts destination with frequent exhibitions, workshops, jam sessions and concerts.

"It's got some momentum and a forward direction, which it hasn't had for many, many years," said Grogono, who hopes that energy will continue when the centre has to move and find a new home.

The artists haven't yet received word that they have to move, but they're aware that day will soon come.

"It's not over until the fat lady sings, but there is a sunset clause in this particular venue," Grogono said.

The first step toward completing a land transfer between Homes North and the GNWT was completed in council last week when city council approved a transfer of Commissioner's land near the North Slave Correctional Centre to Homes North. The land, where Rocher hopes to build a new mobile home subdivision, is in exchange for three lots on 49 Street, including the one where the church stands.

"As of yet, we haven't heard from him (Rocher), but he has always told us that our tenure there is ephemeral and don't get too comfortable because it's a temporary thing," said Grogono. "Realizing that, we were utilizing the building to demonstrate and use it as a vehicle to pull together a collective to work forward, and we used that vehicle to create a society with the intention of developing and carrying forward the artist-run community centre concept."

The ARRC board is considering a couple options for its future home: either find a new location or relocate the church to another piece of land.

It wouldn't be the first time the structure's been moved. It was originally located on the corner of Franklin Avenue and 54 Street, where Northern United Place currently stands.

"It was originally the United Church and then it got moved up there (to 49 Street)," said Mayor Gord Van Tighem. "Then it became the Pentecostal Church ... and then it became the Glad Tidings Church and then they moved out and it became ARCC - so, it's got an interesting history."

If the building is to be moved again, it becomes a matter of where to put it and who's going to pay for the relocation, said the mayor.

"That's still a discussion," he said.

If the building remains where it is, it would be demolished.

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