By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Columbia Valley Arts (CV Arts) has an expansive new vision for its operation at Pynelogs Cultural Centre.

Though this vision is very much in the planning-and-dreaming stage, the scope of the ideas being talked about is considerable, and excitement was palpable among CV Arts members when the group outlined them at the most recent Invermere council meeting.

The improvements include renovating the cafe at Pynelogs, adding more deck space, putting in a bike rack, moving the wood kiosk for the old heritage garden to a spot downtown, and adding blossom trees to the north side of the building to help hide the propane tanks and kitchen receptacles there.

CV Arts president Sharon Chatterton explained to council members that the current agreement the group has with the district allows CV Arts to operate a “teahouse” and that the modern expression of a teahouse is a cafe, tapas bar or coffee shop. Chatterton said CV Arts wants to step away from the short-season restaurant (Allium) it currently runs, on a nonprofit basis, out of Pynelogs to something that more resembles an upscale year-round arts-integrated cafe.

Part of the reason CV Arts want to renovate the cafe is to establish a culinary arts field-training, industrial-grade kitchen for local culinary students, including those at the College of the Rockies’ Invermere-based hospitality program, but the more important reason for the renovations is to address serious deficiencies and issues in the current kitchen. Renovations would include installing a desperately needed gas stove, creating space for a cafe display and sale counter, opening the kitchen to modern culinary viewing, replacing outdated appliances, pitted unhygienic countertops, as well as cracked and water damaged floors, changing a dysfunctional kitchen layout, and putting in rodent-proofing and insulation on an adjoining porch.

The extra deck space would be used partly for casual, non-alcohol-serving seating but mostly for small performing events such as music and drama acts. CV Arts envisions at 20 foot by 20 foot “on the ground” flagstone or concrete paver space. The bike rack would accommodate up to 12 regular or electric bikes and would be set up near electrical sockets for recharging. The wood kiosk has been unused since the old heritage garden was levelled, and CV Arts proposed moving downtown where it could be used to inform the public about arts events. 

Chatterton outlined that a healthy arts and culture sector entails economic benefit for the community and that modernizing and revamping Pynelogs will help not just CV Arts, but also Invermere as a whole.

“Pynelogs is already a destination, but it is not well known. We want to double or triple its value as a destination,” she said. “CV Arts is a good investment for the district of Invermere.”

Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young added that district staff have met with CV Arts representatives in the field to get an idea of its visions, and the proposals are “substantial changes.”

Invermere councillor Gerry Taft said the proposal may need to be broken down into various parts, as it is hard for the council to approve the whole vision all at once. “It’s a delicate dance with the teahouse or cafe,” said Taft, outlining that council is happy to help and subsidize nonprofits, but that some private eatery operators in Invermere occasionally view the district’s subsidizing of CV Arts as helping their competition (because of the cafe CV Arts runs out of Pynelogs), that there is a convent against commercial operations on the land on which Pynelogs sits (which belongs to the district), and that CV Arts may face complications in renovating Pynelogs as there are restrictions on what can and can’t be done in a historic building. 

Chatterton pointed out that all proceeds generated at the Pynelogs cafe go straight into CV Arts programming, so it is not at all a commercial operation.

CV Arts secretary treasurer Pam Meunier said CV Arts’ main ask was for permission to proceed with looking into options for, and hopefully installation of, a gas stove.

“There are a number of issues with the building that must be addressed before a stove can be installed,” said Young. “Council does not have the power to authorize the installation of a gas stove.” He added that the issues that needed to be resolved with the building are genuine and need to be fixed “for potentially live-saving reasons.”

Council members asked if there was a budget for the renovation. Meunier replied “we don’t have real number yet,” but probably would in one to two months time.

Taft said he was happy to provide conceptual support for most of the ideas in the CV Arts’ vision (and as he said so, most other councillors nodded in agreement), and that the details can be hashed out between the district’s administration and the CV Arts board.

CV Arts is actively seeking feedback on its vision, and can be contacted at [email protected].