A local performing arts theatre is looking to raise money to keep the lights on, doors open, and music live.
The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts, located in the Village of Highgate, is a century-old round church with near-perfect acoustics. On any given night, music performers would play in front of sold-out crowds. The shows would engage and inspire performing and visual arts in partnership with the local community within a historic and architecturally significant heritage venue.
Originally built as a Methodist Church in 1898, the Mary Webb Centre has always conquered adversity. From having the building burning down in 1917, to being rebuilt in 1918, to current-day challenges of furnaces no longer working, replacing a roof, stage and windows were redone, the centre has always found a way to keep the lights on.
In April, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts Board closed the doors and effectively stopped all programs taking place there. This includes scheduled performances by the WSO 14 Piece String Orchestra, Danny Michel, Paul Anthony and his CASH tribute, “Talent at the Webb,” and the Hotel California tribute to the Eagles and the Jim Cuddy Band (of Blue Rodeo fame).
The last event at the MWC was one year ago, on March 7, when Rant Maggie Rant performed to a full house, back when most were still wondering if COVID-19 was something to be concerned about.
However, with no visitors since then, there has been no revenue from shows, community events or the art gallery.
With the shutdown of the live entertainment industry and without the revenue from concerts and art sales, the Mary Webb Centre’s budget has quickly become a challenging one to balance.
“Numerous applications have been submitted to various government grants, but oddly and frustratingly, there seem to be no programs that a not-for-profit without paid staff can access,” said the centre’s Music Director and Chair of the Board of Directors, Peter Garapick.
Nearly a year into a global pandemic, the Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is launching a collaborative campaign, Weave a Webb of Support, where everyone can help out a little to make a big difference.
Weave a Webb of Support aims to familiarise donors with the centre’s ongoing expenses, even when the doors are closed.
“The Mary Webb Centre for the Arts is very grateful for the community’s incredible support throughout the past year,” said Garapick. “The Mary Webb Centre is fully appreciative of these kind and gracious offerings. Thank you.”
The Weave a Webb of Support campaign summarizes the 18 monthly and annual expenses and displays the cost per month for each. Supporters may choose an expense and the number of months for which they would like to pay.
In total, there are 18 expenses and 12 months in a year, meaning 216 opportunities for donors to help pay the annual $30,000 a year worth of bills. Donors can make a contribution via cheque, eTransfer or in-person with cash.
Those interested in donating are encouraged to visit www.marywebbcentre.ca for more information. Donations over $20 merit a tax receipt.
In the meantime, during the past several months, many volunteers have spent several mornings working on the grounds of the centre. Together, they have trimmed all the dead and low lying branches on the trees in the back, cleaned up all of the brush around the trees and put it all through a chipper, spreading all the resulting material around the plants and rocks in the rock gardens at the front and sides of the centre.
“Once restrictions are lifted, these volunteers will be ready to keep the centre as virus-free as possible so we can hopefully get back to what they do best, run concerts, morning and afternoon programs and other special events,” said Garapick.
Garapick added at its recent meeting, the Marketing Committee has put forth many exciting ideas for the future.
“We will let you know all the details as soon as we can. And of course, our wonderful art gallery is anxiously waiting to have in-person visitors, but everyone can virtually visit it now through our on-line marketplace on the Webb Site,” said Garapick.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News