Te Taru White, the consultant hired for the initial work on a Tsimshian Cultural Pavilion on the waterfront, was back in town last weekend to provide residents of Prince Rupert, Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla with an update on the project.
By the end of Monday White and the partners, which include the Prince Rupert Port Authority, Lax Kw’alaams and Metlaktala, were to have identified potential partners, developed a project management framework and White was to have submitted a project prospectus. The next step, which will take place in July, is to present the information and idea to potential partners for funding, with the goal of obtaining the funds for a business case and feasibility study by August 1 so that a request for proposals for the study can be sent out on August 8.
Once the firm doing the study has been chosen, the hope is to have the study finished by the end of November so that a decision on whether or not to proceed can be made by January, 2012. Should the group decide to go ahead with the pavilion, White says he expects it could open by April, 2013 – just in time for a potential cruise ship return.
“Knowing that the cruise lines book two years in advance, we have some fast talking to do to convince them that we will have something special here in 2013,” he said, noting that the pavilion would need to be part of a bigger Prince Rupert experience.
“I see this as a hub or a portal, and not necessarily a destination, to the best of what Prince Rupert offers…This way people get the 10,000-plus years of history but also what we are today.”
During the presentation White outlined some cultural centres that have seen success but also others who are currently facing challenges, and made it clear that cultural centres can be commercially challenging.
“Culture and commerce must work hand in hand. You may look at the project and see the best return for investment on the bottom line is elsewhere…But the build up of cultural capital has to be considered,” he said.
“Be realistic in that you are not running this to make a lot of money and be realistic that these can be commercially challenging, but you are running this to display the cultural capital you have.”
The partners also have to be realistic and remove the “rose coloured glasses” when it comes to budgeting and projecting the number of visitors to the site each year, something he credits for the challenges facing both the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate and Squamish/Liliw’at Centre in Whistler.
“You can’t just say that based on visitor projections we can make this thing hum…With all due respect to tourism stats, when haven’t you seen ones that aren’t optimistic or rosey?”