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Niagara Artists Centre looking to buy properties for creative hub

Fundraising goal of $300,000 to scoop downtown
St. Catharines buildings to possibly open in 2026.

Niagara Artists Centre (NAC) has plans for a new creative hub in downtown St. Catharines.

To do it, it intends to purchase three derelict properties next to its home on St. Paul Street, totalling about 695 square metres (7,500 square feet).

NAC director Stephen Remus said the extra space will be used to create a multi-use performance space, a markerspace for artists to access equipment and the group is also exploring building between six to 10 working/living spaces for artists.

Remus said NAC has completed a feasibility study for the project, which would provide the “stepping stones” to a thriving arts community.

“We know that we’ll have a plan to build something that’s sustainable,” he said.

About $300,000 is required to purchase the three properties. Remus said $100,00 has been raised, with the balance relying on upgraded NAC memberships and donations.

The upgraded memberships — ranging from $35 per year for students to $250-plus for monthly benefactors — would sustain the project with minimal public funding.

The finished project would create multiple, two- to three-storey spaces where artists could congregate, create and, ultimately, show their work.

“Artists, musicians and filmmakers who are out there doing something different have a home here. We want to have first-rate facilities to present their work.”

NAC has started “pilot-testing” the project by launching its new Tool Library, providing artists with an online catalogue of various tools, equipment and facilities they can rent.

Also up and running is the new Sound Art Innovation Lab recording studio, a print studio and a dozen artist studios.

NAC operates out of a modest space at 354 St. Paul St., which Remus said is “splitting at the seams.” Plans to create a creative hub started four years ago when the NAC team saw the potential in the empty units nearby.

“There are major (arts) spaces across North America, so we’re looking at the best of them and finding out which models work,” he said.

“The properties were left in a derelict state and the owner wasn’t interested in retaining them anymore. So, NAC decided, ‘Let’s be the engineers of our own destiny.’”

He hopes the fundraising drive can be completed by the end of August, with the hub possibly opening in three years.

Through it all, Remus said NAC has taken a “cautious approach” and won’t plan for something it hasn’t researched thoroughly.

“We’re of modest means,” he said. “Unlike a private-sector project, there’s going to be a sure road map so NAC doesn’t take a step without knowing what footing we’re on.

“We want to build it right.”

John Law is a St. Catharines-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. Reach him via email: