By BERNIE BELLAN
Many members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community attended Garden City Collegiate over the years.
It was for that reason when I was contacted by someone working to raise money for a new project associated with that school asking me whether I would be willing to come down for the kick-off of a new fundraising campaign to build a performing arts cente for that school, I said: “sure”.
Here is what a release that I was handed when I attended that event on Wednesday, March 15 had to say in part:
“The (Seven Oaks School Division) today officially launched a capital campaign to support the construction of a $7.7 million facility that will house teaching, rehearsal and a 526 seat performance space that will be accessible to both schools and community performance groups.
(I later found it that the performing arts centre will be built on the site of what is currently one of three gyms in the school.)
“It will be the first of its kind in Winnipeg and a significant coup for the Seven Oaks community – an area where more than 80 per cent of students participate in school-based arts funding.
“To kickstart the campaign, the Division also announced significant funding contributions from both the Government of Canada ($500,000) and area city councillors ($87,500)…The division has also received $150,000 from the Richardson Foundation.”
On hand for the announcement were Kildonan-St. Paul Member of Parliament MaryAnn Mihychuk and Winnipeg City Councillor Devi Sharma.
While I was at the school that Wednesday I had a chance to talk with Garden City Collegiate Principal Tony Keml about the history of Garden City Collegiate. I mentioned to him that just in that week’s issue of our paper we had a major story about a Garden City Collegiate alumnus, Jerry Maslowsky.
Keml pointed to Jefferson Avenue and said he remembered Jerry cutting through from his Teakwood Avenue home to come to school.
“Teakwood?” I said. “I’m sure Jerry grew up on Jefferson Avenue”.
“No, it was Teakwood,” Keml insisted.
(I checked. It was Jefferson.)
In any event, not many former students of what used to be known as Garden City Collegiate Institute (The “Institute” has now been dropped from the name.) would recognize the school these days.
First opened in 1962 (one year after the former Jefferson Junior High opened), Garden City Collegiate now occupies the space that it always occupied but, in 2011, the former Jefferson Junior High was closed and that building is now also part of Garden City Collegiate. Connecting the two buildings is a beautiful atrium that houses a cafeteria and which also adjoins the school gym.
(By the way, the school now houses Grades 9-12. Students who would have attended Jefferson Junior High – had it still been around, now go to H.C. Avery Middle School which, interestingly enough, was once home to the Hebrew Bilingual program in Seven Oaks School Division. Boy, have times ever changed!)
According to Superintendant O’Leary, Garden City Collegiate is now the fourth largest high school in the province, with over 1400 students. (I’m betting that no one would guess which high schools are larger? I guessed Kelvin. Here are the three largest high schools in order of size: Sisler, Maples, and Steinbach. Again – have times ever changed!)
One of the other fascinating facts to emerge from attending the kick-off campaign for the new performing arts centre is how many of the students in the Seven Oaks School Division participate in one sort of arts program or another (including programs outside of school. According to a brochure supplied by the division,
“Nearly 80 per cent of the culturally, economically and artistically diverse student community actively participates in the arts. ..That’s more than 8,500 students each year.”
That same brochure goes on to say:
“But a big gap exists: our talented kids do not have a suitable space within their community to perform for an audience.
“While most other divisions in the city have professional-level private performance venues within their geography, our bands, choirs, dance groups and theatrical performers must either hold their events in school gymnasiums with makeshift accommodations or pay to rent outside the community in order to allow for large audiences, sound and light effects and backstage/dressing areas.
“SOSD has been renting facilities for far too long, repeatedly spending dollars that could be better used in the classroom if only we had our own permanent performance space. To solve this ongoing challenge, we have committed to building and furnishing a state-of-the-art $7.7-million performance centre.
“While the division has allotted budget to the capital project, the facility must be 60 per cent funded by private and public donations. A $5-million Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre Capital Campaign launched behind the scenes in October 2016 and will run for approximately 18 months, targeting major donors, alumni and small-gifts contributors.”
The centre is slated to open in 2019.
If you would like to contribute to the new performing arts centre, go to www.performingartslivehere.com.