Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dodi Morrison: Arts accommodation for the most people

The following letter appeared in The Herald and the August 12th edition of the Western News:

The visit of the Tibetan Monks (in exile) was amazingly meaningful to many, many people.

I am reliably told that on the Tuesday of the memorable week 1,200 people went through the art gallery — and those were just the ones who signed the guest book. I’m sure there were many more who did not.

The whole undertaking was a tremendous success — and all due to our new, dauntless, inspired curator Paul Crawford. I’m (also reliably) told that he met with much opposition — he was assured that “it was too religious” and that “nobody would come.”

So he was thrilled to have that all proved untrue. As for the Sunday night concert, the Cleland was sold out — and if there had been tickets a the door — Penticton people being known for last minute decisions — well, they could have filled Pen High auditorium, I’m sure.

I have before me the pinned-up quotation I found for sale at the Monks’ table — “Loving kindness is my religion” — signed by The Dalai Lama.

I was so moved by it all — the talks at meditation, and at other times; the unforgettable sight of the monks creating that mandala, the crowd at the closing ceremony, the wonderful cross-section of Penticton’s population — following the monks until the last of the sand was deposited in the waters of the Japanese Garden — that I felt how sad it was that we were arguing about how we should approach our need for space for concerts — both for school children and adults.

I have heard all the arguments from the council and the school board. But I know that the vast number of my fellow Pentictonites really want to save those two buildings. And I know we will eventually need both. And I know that if little Oliver can decide it wants to save a much more difficult-to-save building, it’s a matter of “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

I looked at that wonderful crowd around the art gallery and thought of how hard it might be to fill a new building with those able to afford a world-class tenor. (Neither Vernon nor Kelowna can make it pay.)

I know if either government gives tax-money to create the new facility rather than to help create affordable housing, we will be hard pressed to find anyone to clean motel rooms — or to provide other services.

And I wonder — are we really trying to approach all this with “Loving-Kindness”? Are we truly looking for the way to provide arts accommodation for the most people — young and old?

It breaks my heart to see Penticton so divided. Is there truly a “will” to find the right “way?”

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