A group of concerned artists is hoping it can help buoy up and revive The Guild in Charlottetown.
In December, the arts and cultural centre received $25,000 in emergency funding from Charlottetown city council. Guild officials said it was losing money and becoming costly to run, and four staff were laid off in the last year.
As well, The Guild currently doesn't have a chief executive officer after the departure of Roma Dingwell. Don Wagner, chair of the board of the P.E.I. Arts Guild Inc, the non-profit group that runs The Guild, told CBC News last week that the board hopes to hire an interim CEO.
In the meantime, a group calling itself The Friends of The Guild has formed to help come up with new ideas for the centre — and new funding to support it.
"We recognize the prime location of The Guild is an irreplaceable asset of the arts community and we are eager to help keep and enhance the building as a sustainable, thriving arts space," the group says on its new Facebook page.
The Queen Street space occupied by The Guild used to be a bank, but the building was transformed into a community arts centre decades ago. (Laura Meader/CBC)
The Guild's 1950s era building on Queen Street is home to a small theatre, an art space called the Hilda Woolnough Gallery, and offices rented out by various tenants.
Dave Stewart, a member of the Friends group, said the site is essential to the arts community on Prince Edward Island.
He would like to see The Guild return to being a place for artists to learn and grow their craft, plus go back to being more of a community theatre with some professional involvement.
"There's got to be a way that this can be sustainable," said Stewart. "It's time to find that right mix of art and sustainability."
'I want to see this place thrive'
Stewart sees the Friends group as advocates who could work with the city, the province and The Guild's board, supporting its managers and helping a wide range of artists have more of a role.
Over the years the 140-seat theatre at The Guild has hosted a wide variety of plays and musical productions. Its calendar for the next week includes four burlesque shows. (Laura Meader/CBC)
"We know The Guild can be a hub for artists… I want to see this place thrive," said the filmmaker, writer and artist. "It's been an important part of my life."
Pan Wendt is the curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery across the street. Like Stewart, he said The Guild is important for emerging artists and community shows on the Island.
"Like a lot of people, my first experiences as a person working in the arts were in this building," he said, mentioning time he spent staffing the gallery and running a film co-op. "I think it's essential to Charlottetown."
Wendt said the Friends group wants to make sure The Guild goes in the right direction, harnessing the support he knows the community will give.
Stewart said many Friends members are artists who have dealt with various funding programs and that knowledge is valuable: "The body of people we have access to has a lot of experience."
The group has put together an online survey in the hope of pinpointing more ideas. Stewart said a few dozen people have already filled it out but they're hoping to hear from more by the time the survey closes on Feb. 15.
The City of Charlottetown, which provides $55,000 in annual funding to The Guild, said in a statement: "The city supports the arts in our community and as a funding partner, remains open to working with The Guild's independent board as required."