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Reimagining The Masonic: What’s on the go?

Exploring the Possibilities

While you may not be able to tell by looking at the exterior of The Masonic, a lot has been happening behind the scenes for the Project. So far this year, we have completed phase one demolition. This stage was needed to obtain an initial assessment of the structural integrity of the building, and during this time, components of the structure required remediation to stabilize structural and bearing aspects of the exterior walls.

The architectural, structural engineering and envelope consultants have reviewed the information revealed and determined further investigation is required. This will involve deeper wall inspections and motion sensor monitoring.

During this phase as well, several historically significant artifacts and elements were carefully removed, packaged and safely stored offsite.

In addition to this work, earlier last month, we engaged NL-based arts consultant Sabrina Richard of Bespoke Collective to carry out a business feasibility study for the development of the Project. The purpose of this study is to assist in making informed decisions about how best to develop our heritage property into an arts-focused community hub and performing arts space.

Erin Molloy and Sabrina Richard

Get to know Sabrina and what she will be working with us on over the next few months in the Q&A below:

  1. Tell us about a bit about yourself
    I am originally from Ontario, where I trained as an architect before moving to the UK to work on the London 2012 Olympics. When I returned to Canada, I worked as a senior planner for Lundholm Associate Architects, an architecture firm that specializes in cultural buildings (museums, galleries, theaters, libraries, etc.). After working at Lundholm for a number of years, I co-founded Bespoke Collective in 2011 with three other amazing women who worked in art and design. Since moving to NL in 2016, I continue to work with Bespoke as the Director of Research and Planning, and I am also on the Board of the Arts Consultants of Canada (ACCA) as the Director of the Atlantic region.
  1. Tell us about your focus in the arts and how that came to be
    Working at Lundholm Architects was a unique opportunity to work with cultural buildings across Canada. From the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at UBC to The Rooms in St. John’s, we crossed the country working on needs assessments, feasibility studies, strategic planning and functional programming for a number of important cultural institutions.  When I co-founded Bespoke, I was determined to continue supporting the arts ecosystem through my work on cultural spaces across Canada.
  1. What relevant experience and knowledge will you bring to The Masonic Project?
    The Masonic Project feasibility study combines many of the  skill sets that I’ve developed in over 20 years of practice – functional analysis of cultural facilities, market and audience analysis, business planning and strategic planning. It helps that while I’ve lived in NL for eight years, my work takes me around the globe so I have an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing arts and culture, including the performing arts at this time.
  1. What will your work with the Project entail?
    The first part of any feasibility study is understanding the current community context and needs of local artists. Right now we are taking stock of the local arts infrastructure and programming to see where The Masonic Project might fit – what it can bring to the NL arts community that isn’t already here. Once we arrive at a specific vision for the building, it’s my job to propose the way to make the project feasible, sustainable and resilient. Much of my work builds upon the community engagement already underway by the Project team, and the work of local architects and consultants to restore and conserve the heritage building.
  1. Why is working on  The Masonic Project of interest to you? What are you most excited about?
    The Masonic Project hopes to be a vibrant home for the arts community, supporting the performing arts but also bringing people together to celebrate all facets of NL culture.  This interdisciplinary approach that celebrates both community and culture is what most excited me about the project. The cherry on top is that I love heritage buildings and I’m honored to be a part of saving The Masonic so that generations to come can enjoy the building.
  1. What do you love most about NL arts and culture?
    I love how much we celebrate the arts and culture in NL. There is a real desire to share what is special and valuable about being a creative person. We have incredible professional artists that produce world-class work, but you could also argue that almost every person in NL is artistic and a cultural ambassador in their own right. From storytelling and performance to crafts and textiles, there is a cultural richness in this province that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.  
  1. What do you think is a main contributor to a vibrant arts and culture community in NL?
    I think NL artists and arts organizations are masters of doing amazing things with very little resources. I guess you could say this about all the arts, but it’s especially evident in NL. That being said, the arts sector does need more support and artists need more opportunities to be able to make a living wage. Cultural heritage is a cornerstone of what makes NL unique in Canada and I hope that building up our arts infrastructure will allow even more artists to stay in the province and find success here.