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Monday, April 8, 2013

Have you ever tried to drag a piano up a flight of stairs?

We have – twice – and don’t recommend that you do.

Pianos are a pretty valuable asset at Vancouver Opera. In fact, we own and make use of over a dozen on a regular basis. When we moved into the O’Brian Centre two years ago, our collection came along. When our movers and technical crew realized that our new facility was both multi-level and devoid of any sort of lifting mechanism, they were forced to fall back on their creativity.

By “creativity”, we really mean “brute strength and blind luck”. We are fortunate to have both in ample supply at Vancouver Opera. That said, it wasn’t an ideal scenario, and there were a couple of close calls that brought a Monty Python sketch or two to the minds of many.   

Since taking residence in the O’Brian Centre, we’ve maintained a commitment to ensuring that our facility – and the work it supports – is as accessible as possible to audiences both existing and new. This commitment has been realized to date in many ways: open houses, community engagement events, cross-cultural public lectures and other contextual initiatives that bring Vancouver Opera’s artistry and educational programming to the forefront of our new community.  Over the past year, we’ve seen well over one thousand individuals from many backgrounds cross the O’Brian Centre’s threshold in response to these initiatives.

In the midst of all of this activity, even more is happening behind the scenes – such as the continuous up-fitting of

the O’Brian Centre. Now that we’re officially in Phase Three of this project, its focus has shifted to something VO takes very seriously: accessibility.

The work currently being done in the Martha Lou Henley Rehearsal Hall will substantially increase the community’s access to our facility. In large part thanks to significant recent investments from the Canada Cultural Spaces Funditself a project arm of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the federal government department responsible for arts and culture in Canada – and the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Infrastructure Grant Program, we are about to install an exterior elevator at the O’Brian Centre. This elevator will have its work cut out for it once it’s up and running: in addition to regularly moving bulky equipment (such as those pianos – as well as other delicate musical instruments), the elevator will ensure that our facility is accessible to individuals of all ages and mobility levels.  As our Ticket Centre happens to be located on the second floor of the O’Brian Centre, this is a big deal!

Construction and installation of this elevator is already underway, and should be completed by late Fall of 2013. VO staffers are working with project leaders, consultants and cultural planners throughout the community so as to ensure that this project is completed on time, on budget and with minimal impact on the company’s day-to-day operations. Taking full residence in the O’Brian Centre has been an intensive and involved process that continues to depend on the commitment of the Opera’s many stakeholders: VO’s staff and Board, our patrons, our supporters and the community at large.

In many ways, our decision to relocate to the O’Brian Centre can be viewed from the same perspective you might take with regard to dragging those two pianos up a flight of stairs: both processes involve a lot of hard work and heavy lifting, and you do run the risk of bruising more than your ego. But, when many hands are doing the lifting, each step of the way, the load becomes that much easier to bear.

Joseph Bardsley
Development Manager, Grants & Proposals

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