Heating up a historic arts space

Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre improves energy efficiency in a unique space.

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An art centre’s upgrades focus on energy savings and the environment

At the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre, budding and professional artists can hone and showcase their talents in a maze of rooms. Over half a century old, this former RCMP station now provides plenty of space for creativity, but it hasn’t been great on energy efficiency—an issue several improvements will address.

Meghan Porath is the Executive Director. “Basically, our whole goal is to facilitate art in this community to showcase our incredible wealth of artists and to get people who are maybe tiptoeing into art just to try it out.” This is done through four art gallery spaces, which host upwards of 25 artists a year, a pottery studio, a woodshop, several private artists’ studios and a gift shop, plus activities like kids’ camps and a range of workshops, from watercolour to traditional Indigenous beading.

Over 350 people have purchased memberships, and, in the first half of 2021 alone, over 700 people had visited the galleries. The facility draws in locals, plus visitors passing through. To remain economically sustainable, however, building upgrades need to be made. These are being done with help from the Trust’s Energy Sustainability Grants. From 2018 to 2021, this program helped fund 59 projects to improve community-purpose buildings—from town halls to seniors’ centres—so they could increase energy efficiency and sustainability and reduce energy costs.

At the Revelstoke gallery, the plans include replacing the boiler and hot water tank, upgrading exterior doors and getting new windows. Currently, the heat is either on or off for the entire building—in the future, separate rooms should have their own controls. “We’re really excited about these upgrades,” says Memory Uglene, Board member of the Revelstoke Visual Arts Society, which runs the centre. “We’re expecting quite a bit of savings.”

The spaces will be more comfortable for users—and the building will be more environmentally friendly. “That’s a huge pillar that we want to showcase,” Porath says. “We want to be as environmentally friendly as possible. I feel like this is a really giant step forward.”

By addressing energy efficiency in a building broadly used by community members, the project helps the Trust advance on its strategic priorities to promote climate resiliency and enhance community well-being—which it also does by encouraging participation in the arts. The centre has also received other support from the Trust.

During the pandemic, art openings had to be cancelled. Because meeting the artists is an essential way for people to connect with their work, the centre started offering videos of the artists working behind the scenes. The feedback was enthusiastic. Even with openings restarted, it will continue to make these videos, with support from the Trust.

“Columbia Basin Trust has been such an integral part of us being able to operate and showcase the incredible artists in our community,” Porath says. “Revelstoke is renowned for epic outdoor adventure, but our community has a vibrant arts and cultural sector as well.”

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