After years of wishing, the day the east-end arts community has been waiting for arrives later this week, when a $37-million state-of-the-art cultural facility opens its doors.
“We’re so excited,” said Caroline Obeid, portfolio manager for the Shenkman Arts Centre.
Long before the centre was announced, artists have been asking for a new facility in the city’s east end — since 1987, in fact, said Obeid.
And it seems they’ve already given the centre a stamp of approval.
“We took groups through here and they were literally drooling,” Obeid said. “A purpose-built facility for them — they’re over the moon.”
The 86,000-square-foot facility includes the 506-seat Harold Shenkman Hall, which has doors that acoustically seal to get the best sound for larger-scale productions, chamber ensembles and spoken word alike, said Charles McFarland, artistic producer for City of Ottawa Theatres.
A 104-seat, configurable Black Box Theatre features “a completely flexible space, so you can arrange the seating any way you like,” McFarland said.
The building also features a rehearsal room, which features changeable acoustic panels and can double as a performance room for smaller performances; a dance studio with sprung floors and two barre heights; five painting studios, which have northwest facing windows to diffuse light; gallery space; and space for the Ottawa School of Art, the Gloucester Pottery School, Arts Ottawa East and the OYP Theatre School.
The upper and lower-level lobbies, connected by the grand staircase, are meant as gathering spaces, said McFarland.
The ceiling of the lobby features decorative wood panels made from the trees that were felled to build the centre, said Shenkman Arts Centre architect Louise Lalande of L&D Architects in Ottawa.
Because the building is “very much a building for the community,” Lalande said it was made with an all-glass façade so that people inside could see into the community and vice-versa, she said.
The unveiling, which happened Monday in advance of Thursday’s inaugural ceremony, leads into the grand opening kick-off celebration, which includes free performances, visual arts exhibits, hands-on activities, readings and film and video screenings by more than 1,000 artists this weekend.
The building will house professional and amateur work alike, said Obeid.
“There’s lots of opportunities for everyone, a lot of spaces to cater to all levels of artists,” she said.