Price making case for cultural centre in Comox

Barbara Price can already envision Museum written across the building that once housed the library in Comox.

Barbara Price proposes the vacant space of the former library at 1729 Comox Ave. be used as a cultural centre. Photo by scott Stanfield

Barbara Price proposes the vacant space of the former library at 1729 Comox Ave. be used as a cultural centre. Photo by scott Stanfield

Barbara Price can already envision Museum written across the building that once housed the library in Comox.

But she first needs to convince council about a proposal to move the Comox Archives & Museum and the Pearl Ellis Gallery out of their lower-level locations around the back into the premises upstairs in the 1700 block of Comox Avenue.

The idea is to create a cultural centre that opens onto the main street in the downtown core.

“Visibility is key to attracting people,” Price, president of the Archives and Museum Society, said last week before the committee of the whole. “A cultural centre on our main street would add to the vibrancy of our downtown.”

After serving as a library for many years the building later housed a dollar store. Part of the building is used as a medical facility while another portion serves as a storage space for the museum, accessible by a fire escape.

“We have the opportunity to enlarge the showcase space, and also easily access our storage, which would make it far more usable,” Price said.

“And I think the citizens of Comox would like to see a use like that happening on their main street,” she added, noting the proliferation of medical and dental offices on Comox Avenue. “I’ve heard a lot of people saying they find the main street is getting very dull … and it could happen that that space gets leased for further doctor’s practices.”

The building upstairs offers a more open, and slightly larger area than the museum and gallery combined.

But the key is visibility.

Price figures about 80 per cent of Comox residents do not realize the town has an archives and museum.

“It’s very hard when you have no visibility on the high street to promote your message,” Price said. “Comox is a large enough place, I feel, to support a cultural centre. Speaking from the archival and museum side, we have an incredibly rich history. Settlements were started. Comox was the staging post, and we still have the oldest licensed drinking establishment in B.C., the Lorne Hotel.”

The town provides space for the museum and gallery — a situation that would need to continue for both to operate.

“That’s what the town will have to struggle with because anybody else they could get a rental income from,” Price said. “We couldn’t pay retail rent and operate.

“What we do see is that we bring vibrancy to the downtown — far more reason for people to walk down the street.”

The mandate of the museum is to educate the public about the region’s natural, cultural and artistic heritage. It is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

The Pearl Ellis Gallery features a new exhibit every two or three weeks. It is open seven days a week from 1 to 4 p.m. Both are located at 1729 Comox Ave., on the lower level behind and off the main street.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Comox Valley Record