Reigniting Community Learning through Revitalizing The West Schoolhouse!
Target Completion Date: July 1, 2023
What is this project about?
A challenge becomes an opportunity! For the past 23 years, the Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity has been bringing people together through music and nature. Recognized as a cultural cornerstone in its rural location in south-central Ontario, Westben typically involves approximately 10,000 participants and learners annually. Along with its renowned summer music festival and international residencies, its year-round community programming typically engages over 2,000 learners and local enthusiasts annually through large, multi-generational learning programs, choral ensembles, day camps, house concerts, and fun and friendly music appreciation experiences.
Of course, everything changed in 2020. The pandemic forced Westben to cancel 81 out of a planned 84 events, including over 50 “Community Connections” shared learning and outreach projects. Meanwhile, the lease expired on our year-round box office and learning centre when the building was repurposed by the landlord. Our daunting challenge became to pivot and rebuild the organization while finding a new facility to keep connected to, and serve, our community learners.
And we’re meeting the challenge! The creation of new outdoor venues and digital formats helped revitalize the summer festival and the residencies. Support from Ontario Trillium Foundation will enable us to reconceive and relaunch educational and community programming. And with the outstanding help of the community, we were able to purchase the West Schoolhouse, a one-room historic building abutting the Westben property. It is here that we envision reigniting our cultural connection with our growing communities of learners and music enthusiasts.
But the Schoolhouse needs help! Known as a learning and gathering place since its creation in 1890, there are a number of urgent capital upgrades and improvements that are needed in order for it to be a safe, accessible and welcoming facility which can serve its community year-round, and for years to come. Improvements include replacing brittle wiring, adding a parking lot to accommodate rural drivers, providing clean drinking water, supplying hot water and several other repairs and upgrades.
Our overall goal is to reconnect with and grow our community through year-round learning. To achieve this, we will revitalize this historic place of learning, making it into a new, accessible community learning hub for welcoming music rehearsals, all-ages workshops, “Chalk Talk” public chats, intimate Schoolhouse concerts and so much more! We respectfully request support from Commonwell L.E.A.F. to help us revitalize The West Schoolhouse, to serve its important role of providing accessible music education for the strength and well-being of the entire community.
To learn more, visit: www.westben.ca/schoolhouse-campaignWestSchoolhouseRackCard_Westben_Final.pdf