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U of G opens a new space for the arts community to use

The new space, a $25-million project, will provide learning, performance and rehearsal space for both the school and the community

There is a new arts space at the University of Guelph available for use by both the school and greater Guelph arts community.

The new Arts Research Centre (ARC), home of the ImprovLab, which was built for the College of Arts students, the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) and community members in general, is open after renovations that started in 2019.

The seed of the project started with a new extension to the MacKinnon building, where the ImprovLab is. It is a 130-seat space. 

“I think we're just really excited about the potential for robust research to take place, but also for community use,” said Julia Busatto, project manager for IICSI.

“This is meant to be a hub for the research that we do at our institute and an opportunity for us to showcase some of our projects to the public,” said Ajay Heble, director for IICSI.

The ImpovLab will soon have a booking system so those associated with the grant can schedule time to use the space and when it isn’t being used for research community members outside U of G can book the space for a fee.

“And you can fill out a form to book the space and host your event or your rehearsal or workshop or anything in the space,” said Busatto.

“We're really excited to develop it, I think, over the next few years to be a robust, exciting, lively space that's used weekly by different groups and people,” she said.

A grant application was submitted in 2016 to the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for the new space and renovations to existing spaces was successful. The $25-million project was mostly funded by CFI and the U of G.

The ImprovLab has one of the few sprung dance floors in Guelph, said Heble.

In October the ImprovLab will be used as the space for the annual 24-hour festival of improvised arts: IF 2023. 

“So the implementation festival for the last three years we've done remotely. So we've done 24 hours non stop, with 150 artists from 25 different countries around the world. This year we're doing it in person in this space,” said Heble.

The festival will also be streamed live.

There were also renovations to the lecture and performance hall at the ARC.

“It brings everybody together and so lots of these programs have lots of natural overlap. And I think this way, in both research and teaching people can do more interdisciplinary work,” said Samantha Brennan, College of Arts dean.

“The students are so excited. They come here they do music. They go across the way they get to do theatre. And then we get to talk about them working together,” said Kimberly Francis, professor of music and director of interdisciplinary studies for the College of Arts.

Renovations were done to improve the black box theatre, costume design space, theatre change rooms, music practice spaces, and recording studios in the ARC.

“This is like kind of what I would consider the hub of the theatre program, especially in this building and in the space only because it's so focused and central,” said Simon Flint, costume coordinator for the theatre program.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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