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Space = Sustainability

Following her time with the Rozsa Arts Management Program (RAMP), Barbara Thorson presented her Action Learning Project at the University of Calgary on March 14, 2017.

My Action Learning Project started out as a proposal to create a Policy and Procedure Manual for Cowtown Opera. However, immediate concerns for lack of space in my home and garage (where Cowtown Opera had resided for the past six years), led me to begin the search for a new location. The challenge would be to provide an affordable space that could house props, files, costumes, equipment, concession items, and staff. The opportunity for this to happen would ensure that “space” does indeed equal “sustainability”. The ability to maintain or support the goals of Cowtown Opera, over the long term, would depend upon a space that met all of the criteria for the success of the company.

Since 2011, Cowtown Opera had perpetuated their mission statement by bringing opera to the people. They successfully maintained their professionalism, high standard of performance and solid reputation for over six years, however the organization realized they needed a space where artists could meet, gather and exchange ideas, as well as sustain the administration of the company. Finding a permanent space for Cowtown Opera would enable this to happen.

Based on the mission statement, I determined what needs were required for this space: rehearsal, office, performance and storage. It was also necessary to look at the process for executing the project, which included the research of strategies for connecting with potential donors and sponsors, possible co-sharing with other arts organizations, implementing AGLC Casino funding and applying for and obtaining funding from grants.

In March of 2017, I began by touring different locations to determine which venues would meet our needs. Those involved in this search were cSPACE, The Commons, Scorpio Theatre, DJD Danceworks, Evergreen Community Space, and YYC Beltline Community. In addition, I identified the costs associated with these venues, as well as investigating the potential of acquiring these spaces. Likewise, I was able to connect with commercial and residential realtors to obtain information about rental costs in various areas of the city.

On May 1st, 2017, one of Cowtown Opera’s supporters sent me an email about something he had heard on CBC Radio that day. YYC Beltline were looking for tenants to move into the historic McHugh House on 17th Avenue SW and Centre Street. After following up this lead, on June 17, 2017 our Roster Singers performed at the McHugh House Grand Opening on Neighbourhood Day where it was announced that the Cowtown Opera would be moving to the McHugh House in July of 2017.

On July 31, 2017 Cowtown Opera moved out of my garage, and into the McHugh House. The new space is not without its limitations, as we were not able to secure performance and rehearsal space within the house. Cowtown Opera is currently working on collaborations with other theatre and opera companies to secure these spaces, which unfortunately are very limited in the city of Calgary.

On a positive note, Cowtown Opera feels this new location is a great fit. The McHugh House, built in 1896, represents historical significance to the community. Similarly, Cowtown Opera explores the intersection of classical and popular culture with innovative and contemporary performances, utilizing a traditional art form with a modern day prospective.

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