Friday, April 20, 2018

Jane's Walk Nanaimo 2018 downtown May 5

Monday, April 16, 2018

Our Street Nanaimo ‏ @OS_Nanaimo —
Walk and talk with us #Nanaimo May 5 2PM #JanesWalkNanaimo

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Our Street Nanaimo ‏ @OS_Nanaimo —
Walk and talk with us #Nanaimo May 5 2PM

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Listen up #Nanaimo.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The 1st annual #Nanaimo Jane's Walk
happening downtown May 5th 2:00 pm

Thursday, February 8, 2018

#Nanaimo. Do the math...

Source: Empowering citizens to contribute. Helping cities get more done with existing resources. Growing unique & self-sustaining local economies.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Andrew Homzy's letter to the editor re a VIU downtown campus

Note: Since this piece and letter were published I've considered the use of the VICC for this purpose to no longer be an option. But I am hoping that Andrew’s Montreal experience and the important local impact of his Nanaimo International Jazz Festival serve to foster discussion of a downtown VIU campus, and a arts and economic revitalization.

Dear Sirs, Following the recent discussions about the failure and expense of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre (VICC), I thought this an appropriate time to write you with some perspectives, ideas and a proposal.

First, a few of my credentials: I am from Montréal where I taught music at Concordia University for 40 years. I am also a composer, director, author and professional musician with extensive experience in North America, Europe and Scandinavia.

When I arrived in Nanaimo in 2009, I was struck by three things: The ghost-town atmosphere of the downtown after 5:00pm, the remoteness of VIU from the hub of Nanaimo, and the empty beauty of the VICC.

When I began teaching at Concordia, the University was divided into two campuses - the downtown campus, former Sir George Williams University and the Loyola College campus, 7 km to the west. Public transportation between the two campuses took 40 minutes - eventually, a University shuttle-bus did the route in 20 minutes.

For various historical and logistical reasons, Music and Theatre resided on the Loyola Campus while Visual Arts resided downtown. This was unfortunate for Concordia’s performing arts because the students were greatly removed from the professional performance venues, work/study opportunities and the vibrant inspiring “buzz” which makes Montréal such a great city. Finally, in 2009, a huge project was completed which united all of Concordia’s Fine Arts students in the heart of downtown - the corner of Guy and Sherbrooke streets. Within one semester, both the neighbourhood and the performing arts students were transformed. And that’s what I’d like to see happen here.

A Renaissance in Nanaimo -

When I taught Music at VIU as a leave replacement - during the “Strike Semester” of 2011” - I was first-hand witness to a multitude of problems and challenges for the students there. I saw inadequate and dilapidated facilities, woefully outdated equipment, and especially, that up-hill remoteness which prevented students from significant engagement in the cultural and civic activity of this wonderful little town.

On the other hand, I saw the VICC with its empty store-fronts and it’s beautiful, unused rooms in various configurations - viz:

    • 9 multi-purpose meeting rooms
    • 13,697-sq.ft. ballroom – divisible into 4 salons
    • 200-seat tiered Shaw Auditorium
    • 16,000-sq.ft. Nanaimo Museum
    • 2 entrance lobbies
    • 2 spacious pre-function areas
    • 300-space underground parking garage
    • 800-seat tiered Port Theatre (adjacent)

Imagine what it would do to bring the vibrant Performing and Visual Arts students into this facility -

Theatre students might ameliorate the situation in the struggling facilities of Harbour City Theatre, the mostly closed Nanaimo Entertainment Centre, and of course, interact with events at the Port Theatre. Perhaps they might also interact with the nearby Harbour Dancenter. Besides having classes in the VICC, they might also find class space in the aforementioned venues

Visual Arts students would be in close proximity to the Nanaimo Art Gallery, the Nanaimo Museums and the inspiring waterfront. Imagine walking down Commercial street and seeing the now empty VICC storefronts as classrooms filled with visual art students - and their art displayed in the lobbies and other spaces thought the downtown.

Music students would be next to the Port Theatre with it’s many first rate music productions as well as the downtown venues which present jazz, blues and creative music - not to forget the near-by Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, which focuses on excellence in classical music.

The meeting rooms in the VICC would make excellent classrooms for all the Performing and Visual Arts classes. The Shaw Auditorium would be excellent for concerts and recitals - and still be used for City Council meetings on Mondays.

Sirs, there may be some obstacles, but I believe the basic move downtown could be accomplished during the 4-month summer break - with adjustments made over the following year. Imagine a new kind of September in Nanaimo: The downtown vibrant - as is Montréal - with Fine Arts students who live and study in or near our city core.

Messrs. McKay and Nilson, could you please make this renaissance happen?


Andrew Homzy,
Nanaimo Citizen -
Professor Emeritus,
Concordia University

The downtown renewal achieved
when Concordia University created
a downtown campus.

The following was originally published in the Nanaimo Daily News, Aug 20, 2015. Reprinted with permission of the author. Andrew Homzy is a Grammy nominated musician, Professor Emeritus, Concordia University. Andrew is also President of the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association.

Moving Vancouver Island University music and performing arts students to Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre could rejuvenate the city's core and would make use of existing space in the conference centre, says Andrew Homzy, a professor emeritus from Concordia University who now resides on Protection Island.

Homzy taught jazz at Concordia in Montreal for 40 years beginning in the late 1970s in Montreal and said both the city and school benefited from moving music and theatre downtown in a pitch to council and VIU officials via email this week.
Homzy said performing arts students went to a separate campus outside of the city, unlike visual arts students, who were located in the downtown campus.

"This was unfortunate for the performing arts students because they were greatly removed from the professional performance venues, work/study opportunities and the vibrant inspiring 'buzz' which makes Montreal such a great city," he said in his email.

"Finally, in 2009, a huge project was completed which united all of the fine arts students in the heart of downtown. .. Within one semester, both the neighbourhood and the students were transformed. And that's what I'd like to see happen here."

An influx of arts students into the downtown core would drive demand for accommodation and services and liven up the area, he said. Repurposing the city owned conference centre has increasingly become a topic of conversation in light of what critics have described as a disappointing performance from the conference centre.

Mayor Bill McKay said he wants to continue the current course and instead seek out business opportunities to bolster the facility's fortunes. McKay and city manager Ted Swabey were in Vancouver Wednesday meeting with representatives of Great Canadian Casinos, who McKay said is looking to expand their facility.

"There are a lot of folks with a lot of ideas for the VICC, none of whom have any backers, and you need to have willing investors to make a project like that come to fruition," McKay said.

"We've talked to VIU about it before, VICC is nowhere in the plans of VIU, in any way, shape or form. "As it stands right now, I'm not prepared at this point to give up on that centre as a conference centre."McKay said a planned expansion of the Port Theatre and the prospect of a new downtown hotel has increased economic potential for the area.

A response from VIU president Ralph Nilson's office was not received by press time.