The Burns Lake Interpretive Centre Building will remain the home of the Lakes Artisan Cooperative (LAC). The Village of Burns Lake has committed to a three year rental agreement starting Jan. 1, 2013. The local co-op currently occupies the building but their lease was set to expire at the end of this year.
Some controversy was associated with the co-op’s rental of the facility. A number of letters directed to Village of Burns Lake council expressed concern that the artisan’s use of the facility was in effect a subsidization of a private business by the Village of Burns Lake because the rent did not cover the cost of the building.
This situation could have been interpreted as a conflict with the municipal statutes that govern the village’s dealings with local business. On the advice of legal council the village determined that a public tender of the facility would both determine the fair market value of the lease as well as protect the village from allegations of a subsidizing a local private business.
On Nov. 2, 2012 the Village of Burns Lake issued a call for an ‘expression of interest’ from local businesses or individuals that might be interested in leasing the building from the village.
According to an Oct. 1 Village of Burns Lake council report there are $9585.88 per year in costs associated with the building.
Only one group expressed formal interest in renting the building, and that was the current renters. The LAC proposed a five year renter’s agreement but village council agreed to three years. They will rent the building for $500 per month for three years including utilities, taxes, exterior maintenance and snow removal.
The LAC’s stated purpose in renting the facility is to “provide a wide representation of all artistic aspects of the Lakes District” and they are actively encouraging First Nation artisans to join the co-op.
“It’s always been our focus to encourage First Nations artists,” said co-op member Candice Little. “First Nations art is in high demand, and now that we have three years of stability we can develop those relationships.”
The space will continue to house an art gallery showcasing local artists and artisans and it also serves as a retail store and a space for work or social exchange like author readings or small cultural gatherings.
“We only showcase local art here,” said Little. “We’ve had lots of offers to sell work on commission from other communities like Smithers, but we only sell local artists.”
The building was originally built using funds from the Softwood Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative fund through Western Diversification of Community futures Development Corporation Nadina under the stipulation that the building be used as a “first-class tourism information and interpretive centre that is vital to creating new businesses, investment and employment in the tourism sector.”
The LAC is confident that they meet the intent of the original funding not only by supporting local established and emerging artists but in directing visitors to other local shops and eateries.
“We’ve had buses stop in here after visitor centre hours,” Little explained, “and we’ve opened our doors to provide coffee and information about the area.”