Finding a Nest and Feathering It

The Oliver Community Arts Council has had a presence in Oliver since its incorporation as a society in 1970.  However, it hasn’t always had a home to truly call its own.


For many years, the OCAC rented space at the historic CPR Station on 93rd Street (now the Oliver Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Centre, at left) .

In April 2001, the CPR Station was torched by an arsonist and the arts coucnil was forced to find new premises. During that summer, the Oliver Art Club was invited to use the Old Fire Hall on Main Street as an art gallery. They graciously offered to share the facility with the OCAC until the new owners of the Fire Hall took possession and began renovations. The OCAC “Studio” program, with its weekly exhibits and demonstrations, kept the Fire Hall open six days a week  all summer long, in both 2001 and 2002.

Meanwhile, the Town of Oliver considered various options for restoring the CPR Station. The original concept was to raze it, build a new building that would house the Chamber of Commerce, the arts council, a wine info centre, and possibly the local economic development society. Meetings at Town Council chambers were held with all stakeholders. Unfortunately, after two or three meetings held, the committee folded.

The Oliver Heritage Society pressed the Town to change plans for CPR Station, recognizing and preserving  it as a heritage structure. Money held in trust for building a new structure was now to be devoted to restoration of the historical site. Other money was also held in trust, but not enough to purchase a large piece of property for any similar development.

old-fire-hallIn September 2002, the new owners took possession of Old Fire Hall, converting it into a restaurant, wine cellar and boutique wine store (see left).  The OCAC and its member groups were once again without a home.  The OCAC, Weavers, and Quilters rented space in the Oliver Community Centre. The Oliver Art Club relocated to space at the Oliver Word of Life church.

 In 2003, the old property for Christ the King Catholic Church came up for sale. The arts council discussed obtaining a mortgage to purchase it. A private individual proposes to buy it and rent or lease it to the OCAC. Several meetings are held with the purchaser to work through the plans. By March 2003, there was an agreement in principle to rent the Catholic Church sanctuary for the OCAC Studio program. Nevertheless, in May of that year, the agreement in principle falls through. Studio and the other OCAC programs and groups must find yet another new home. Generously, the Town of Oliver allowed the arts council to use the newly renovated CPR Station for two months at no cost.

By the fall of 2003, Oliver’s municipal manager and members of the South Okanagan Amateur Players (an OCAC member group) suggested that the dramatic society look at a disused BC Building Corp property (the Argo highway maintenance yard) as a possible alternative theatre venue for rehearsals, storage, and studio-buildingperformance.  The property is on 0.9 acres of land on 95th Street across from the Oliver Airport. Two buildings are on site: a smaller office building (see left) with two truck bays and a shower , and a larger post-and-beam maintenance shed.  After many discussions between SOAP and the OCAC throughout the winter, it was agreed that the arts council was the proper body to negotiate a purchase and fundraise the maintenance costs for the property. 

The arts council made a formal proposal to the Town of Oliver to turn the Argo property into an arts centre. The Town of Oliver investigated possibilities of trading properties with BCBC, the owner of the Argo property. The property was a “white elephant”, unable to be rezoned residential because of its previous industrial use.  However, BCBC did not agree to the proposal. Instead, the Town of Oliver entered into an agreement in principle with the OCAC to purchase the Argo property, and transfer it to OCAC to limit Town’s liability.

From March to June of 2004, OCAC held meetings of the Arts Centre Direction Committee, made up of interested members who made plans to take over the property later that year. They also generated some of the initial ideas regarding the potential use of the property.  In preparation for the property transfer, the OCAC set up 3 committees: Development (to oversee entire project: fund-raising, PR, interface with government and other agencies), Design (to create a list of technical priorities and to work with an architect to ensure the finished project met the needs of the OCAC and its member groups), and Buildings Operations (to handle all issues related to the maintenance of the physical plant).

 On June 6, 2004, a special Arts Centre Committee meeting passed a motion that OCAC take over possession of Argo Property. Signatures of all the directors were obtained, and the OCAC moved into the property, albeit unofficially at this point. On July 16, the OCAC held its Grand Opening , complete with speeches, ribbon cutting, bag piper, and cake. Member groups filled the smaller Studio  building with colourful booths showcasing their talents. It was a festive celebration. One week later, on July 23, the OCAC at last took legal possession of property. The first OCAC program to run at the arts centre was Summer Studio 2004.

In September 2004, the OCAC held its AGM at the Arts Centre. JoAnn Turner was elected President, Chris Schon Vice-President, Terry Irvine Secretary, and Ralph Englesby Treasurer.

In May of 2005, the OCAC applied to the BC Gaming Commission for Direct Access Program Grant  that would assist them with the required renovations to the smaller Studio buiilding on the property, including installing a handicapped washroom, small kitchen, emergency lighting, and office equipment. By September of that year, the OCAC received word that the grant request had been approved, with the bulk of the work being completed the following spring and summer.  

In July 2005, the OCAC makes application to the CCRA (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency)  for status as a Charitable Organization. The process, including major changes to the OCAC constitution, is completed a year later when, in September 2006 , the OCAC receives its charitable status. This will enable the organization to  pursue major capital fundraising and issue charitable receipts.

 Over a period of several months in 2005, members of the arts council generated close to thirty creative names for their new facility. At their monthly meeting in February 2006, the Oliver Community Arts Council selected the name “Quail’s Nest Arts Centre” from among the many contributions.

The OCAC wishes to thank the Town of Oliver and the many individuals who have led and supported us on this journey to find and feather our own nest!