Canadian College of Performing Arts proposes permanent Oak Bay location

Greater Victoria performing arts school has outgrown its home in St. Mary’s Church

Ron Schuster, director at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, centre, and students ham it up during lunch break. The private college, based out of St. Mary’s Anglican Church, has outgrown its location and is searching for a permanent home in Greater Victoria, with Oak Bay’s Carnarvon Park as an option.

The Canadian College of Performing Arts is looking for a new home, and hoping a location in Oak Bay could become its permanent headquarters.

The CCPA, based out of St. Mary’s Anglican Church on Elgin Road for the past 14 years, in collaboration with Oak Bay parks and recreation is considering Carnarvon Park as a future home for the college.

“We’re looking for long-term sustainability,” Ron Schuster, college director, said during a recent presentation to council. “Unfortunately, at our present location, we’ve just outgrown it. … It’s getting more challenging to run our three-year program.”

The college’s current shared space is about 16,000 square feet, and without rooms such as a large dance studio and practice areas that its 75 students need.

“Most of the spaces we have are serving double, triple duty,” Schuster told the News.

For example the largest room, used as a practice room and performance stage, also acts as a special events venue for the church, he added.

“Right now we’re in every little nook and cranny in the church with practice rooms.”

The proposed Carnarvon facility, estimated at $6 to $9 million, would be about 25,000 square feet, covering the park’s current building and lacrosse box.

Oak Bay was asked to provide the land, but there are currently no funding partners.

The facility would be designed to suit the college’s needs while also allowing use by community groups, Schuster said, noting Oak Bay parks and rec and Oak Bay Archives as potential partners.

The public could also use the space for recreational activities such as art exhibits, he added.

In recent years the CCPA welcomed community activities, acting as a Victoria Fringe Festival venue and hosting this summer’s CeltFest.

The college’s proposal is in tune with the municipality’s original plans for the park, said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

Although shared community use is incorporated in the Oak Bay High replacement project, Jensen said the idea is worth a look.

When you think about what recreation is all about, it really is in part about culture, and this is an opportunity for us to include culture into our recreation programs and facilities,” he said. “So I think it’s an opportunity well worth pursuing.”

Talks about CCPA’s relocation began two years ago with then Oak Bay mayor Christopher Causton. At that time, the college was told they could no longer use St. Mary’s, Schuster said.

However, CCPA was able to renew its lease and recently signed a new five year lease with the church.

“We know we can stay here, but as part of that process, we’ve also recognized the fact that we need more space,” Schuster said.

Oak Bay is just one of the options the college is pursuing, but Schuster said the college would prefer to stay in the municipality.

“We love it here. Many of our supporters and audience are here,” he said. “It’s because of that positiveness – we’re very excited about potentially finding a way to maybe make that work here.”

Based on council’s approval, Oak Bay parks and rec will continue working with CCPA in garnering public opinion before moving forward.

Depending on the input, the college would begin a campaign and feasibility study, with hopes the new facility could be complete in three to five years.

Did you know?

The private performing arts college is owned by the non-profit Canadian Heritage Arts Society.

Students come from across the country to develop their skills in dance, singing and acting.

The three-year program also teaches theatre and career management.

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