The Clayton Bellamy Foundation for the Arts is closing in on its fundraising goal for a new arts venue in Bonnyville.

Foundation vice-president Lise Fielding says they need to raise $1.2 million. To date they have raised $467,000 in cash support and in-kind donations, and in June they applied for a matching Community Facilities Enhancement Program (CFEP) grant from the Alberta government. 

If they receive the CFEP grant they will be well on their way.

The Town of Bonnyville, the City of Cold Lake, and the Lakeland Sports and Recreation Association have come through with major donations so far. The Cold Lake Arts and Entertainment Society, which had operated the Grande Parlour theatre, had high-quality equipment on their books when they dissolved, and they donated that to the cause.

Other sponsorship opportunities, including name sponsors for the venue and for its stage, will be available, Fielding said.

The Bonnyville community has been feeling the loss of the Lyle Victor Albert Centre since its demolition in 2019. Local and imported talent ranging from school recitals to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra had graced that venue, which boasted a generously-sized stage and an intimate audience house.

Country music star Clayton Bellamy (who is Fielding’s nephew) honed his craft on that stage as a young amateur performer. Fielding says it’s important for local performers and audiences to have that opportunity.

“Just to be able to go up on stage and practice being in front of a crowd is huge for a performer, because there’s a lot of talented people in this world but not everybody’s cut out to be a performer. And you’re not going to know that until you can actually do it,” she said.

Bellamy’s appearances at Bonnyville Country Opry shows earned him a $2,500 scholarship to study music at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. The new venue will partner with that school and with Portage College to offer similar support for emerging artists.

Bonnyville mayor Elisa Brosseau said opportunities in the arts are an important part of a community’s recreation programming. 

“It’s important because I think there’s more to a community than just outdoors and recreation, there’s also the arts side of things. And as a municipality we have to support that side of our community as well,” she said. 

The Town of Bonnyville recently approved $100,000 for the new facility.
Brosseau said it’s important to fill the void left by the closing of the Lyle Victor Albert Centre.

“It was a big loss for our community when we lost the Lyle Victor Albert, and there’s a strong fine arts society in town and they’ve really missed that. There’s a lot of dance groups and musicians, and they’ve really felt that loss. So it has been on our radar,” she said.

Fielding said the importance of an arts venue is not just in entertainment value for audiences, but as an opportunity for people to pursue the arts as a pastime or a potential career.

“It won’t just be performing arts, we can actually have speakers come in and engage people that way. It’ll be educational,” she said. 

“And in the summertime we’re planning on having different educational camps for kids, for music, art, or dance. We’ll look into doing all of that.”    

Fielding said there will be large and small sponsorship opportunities suitable for companies or individuals.