History

In the Beginning

This organization began in 2012 with a group of volunteers who wanted improve their community and use an empty building on Main Street.  Because they were all gardeners, they chose to produce cedar obelisks, a garden structure not easily found for sale in Canada. They formed the original not-for-profit organization.  What is now known as Birtle Centre for the Arts Inc. began as The Classic Garden Inc. which was incorporated in 2013. This group had received funding for tools to manufacture the obelisks whichwould use a vacant building and teach

valuable skills to local youth while being paid for their work.  The Classic Garden set up shop in a vacant building owned by the municipality.  As luck would have it, this building was sold.  Borrowed space in farm shops was used to continue to build the obelisks. 

The Gallery in the Garden was a very popular event held as a fundraiser.  It contibuted to operations of The Classic Garden several different years. This event featured the works of over 30 artists displayed in six unique gardens, each one being an artistic creation on its own.  

Gardens and garden structures were a focus thus the name, The Classic Garden.  Art has also been a connection to the organization since its inception.  

The Centre - a home for the organization

In the fall of 2014, the committee purchased a dilapidated building that was large enough to house a safe woodworking area for this purpose.  The group cleaned out the one useable room and insulated its ceiling.  It had a front room with baseboard heat and a washroom.  They named the building The Centre. To raise funds to cover utilities and a few improvements, the group used the resources at hand. 

The Centre in summer of 2015
Because it was fall, there was no rush to begin building obelisks.  Within a couple of weeks of acquiring the building the group gathered up some old table and chairs and had a pumpkin carving event for children. Pat Farquhar, a professional potter was on the committee and agreed to teach hand building with clay.  An adult and youth class started a week later.  The classes went over well and more classes were added in the new year. Some older borrowed wheels were used to teach throwing. Glazes were purchased and Pat transported pieces to Spruce Garden Pottery studio for firing.

When it was acquired, with the exception of the front room, the building was in very bad shape and could not be used. There was a lot of work to do. 

Funding was a big issue and grants were sourced, applied for and reapplied for hoping for success.  A new roof, windows, wiring, insulations, heating system, floors, ceilings – a complete renovation took place.  Equipment and supplies were gradually purchased.  Each time a space was improved, it was immediately put to use.  By 2019, a fully equipped ceramics studio, a carpentry studio, 

a bright multi purpose front studio and an outdoor patio classroom space set in a newly landscaped area was the result.  They were equipped with 4 Brent wheels, an electric kiln, slab roller, extruder, 4 sewing machines, a full compliment of carpentry equipment and small tools to accompany all activities.  From the carpentry space, our energetic and innovative volunteer, Bill Wright, constructed most of the custom storage structures found throughout the building.  

Learn more about the five year renovation process and the many people that contributed to it here.

The Grand Opening

People were excited about the opportunity to participate in the classes and came from surrounding communities as well.  Instructors were found and more classes were added teaching a variety of art mediums.  On Friday, January 13th, 2017 The Classic Garden committee held the Grand Opening of The Centre. with heat, and all rooms able to be used.   

The Centre - summer of 2019

The organization continues to evolve

The demand for classes never wavered but rather interest and participation grew.  This trend continued and expanded to include more classes for more ages teaching more skills. This was the  how the transformation to focus on the arts came to be.   

Advance to fall of 2019 and during peak times, there are often activities happening 7 days of the week. Over the years, adult and children’s classes have included acrylics, water colour, mixed media, pastels, alcohol ink, drawing, ceramics, paverpol sculpture, glass mosaic, beaded moccasins, fibre arts, batik, tablet weaving, puppet making, jewelery, printmaking, hypertufa, sign making and more.   

Of course Covid 19 has slowed things down temporarily but that break has allowed us time to regroup and take time to look to the future.  During the December 2020 shut down, many zoom meetings have been held.  A strategic plan was created, the organization has changed its name to Birtle Centre for the Arts Inc to better reflect its current activities and the building has been renamed to match.  Formerly The Centre, it is now named Birtle Centre for the Arts.