The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning is one of if not the most significant local construction projects that was completed in 2014. Nestled beside Queen’s University’s stunning new Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, the Tett will emerge as an arts cluster and creativity hub as well as the new home for a host of community organizations. Groups including the Kingston Arts Council, Kingston Weavers and Spinners, Kingston Potters Guild and Modern Fuel have already made the move into their swanky new diggs at the Tett. While there’s still work to be done and many more boxes to unpack, we can’t wait for things to really come alive at the Tett. Be sure to mark your calendar for the centre’s grand opening celebration, The Whole Shebang, which takes place on January 31st.
If all stays on schedule, nine pillars of Kingston’s arts community will move into the new Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning late this summer. For some, the move has been a decade in the making. Patty Petkovich, president of the Kingston Potters Guild and co-chair of the Tett Centre Board, says, “That’s when discussions started. We have been actively working towards this almost ten years now.” Other groups, such as Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, came on board a little later: “Our board made the decision about three or four years ago,” says Modern Fuel director Megan McNeil. “We did look around at other opportunities but agreed that the Tett was best.” For everyone, these last few months are filled with anticipation and optimism. Petkovich puts it succinctly: “We’re so lucky to have this. The City of Kingston is very fortunate.”
The other groups joining KPG and Modern Fuel in the Tett Centre are Joe’s M.I.L.L., Kingston Handloom Weavers and Spinners, Kingston Lapidary and Mineral Club, Kingston Arts Council, Kingston School of Dance, SALON Theatre, and Theatre Kingston. Moving to the Tett will mean improved facilities, greater accessibility, a chance to liaise with likeminded groups, and increased clientele. “Everyone is very excited,” says McNeil.
Only a few months remain until the nine organizations make a mass exodus from their current homes, and the feelings are bittersweet. “We love our downtown location and we’ve been here for 37 years,” says McNeil. “There are lots of memories, lots of history. There’s certainly mixed feelings.” Modern Fuel’s building, which they lease from the City, is in disrepair and hopelessly outdated in terms of accessibility. Once the gallery vacates, it’s likely to be demolished and made into condos or commercial space. And Modern Fuel isn’t the only group leaving behind a lot of history. Joe’s M.I.L.L. has been operating out of the Robert Meek school for nearly fifteen years, lending its first instrument in 2001. Theatre Kingston has called the historic Grand Theatre its home for more than fifteen years.
While an artistic centre certainly has merit both for the groups and the community, it’s sad to watch them say goodbye to historic spaces. Corralling these diverse organizations into a hub means that arts become less dispersed throughout the city, and their individuality becomes eroded. It also means that the public loses a reason to advocate for preserving some of these historic buildings, like Modern Fuel’s home at 21 Queen Street.
Then again, the Tett Centre is a historic building itself, first constructed nearly 200 years ago. The City’s dedication to restoring it as a major arts centre shows a real commitment to advocating arts and culture, and the occupants will all enjoy a higher community profile.
So what do you think? Is the Tett Centre a wonderful step forward for the Kingston arts community, or does it do a disservice to the autonomy and history of the organizations? Let us know in the comments.
Credit to Queen’s University for the photo displayed above. Check out more construction and finishing photos of both the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning and Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts here.