Is Amherst an arts community?

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The decision by Showcase Productions’ board of directors to leave the Susan Taylor Theatre at Amherst Regional High School appears to be the natural conclusion to a struggle the organization has endured with the theatre’s management, the school and the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

We are not picking sides, but the fact another theatre company finds itself in crisis has to lead to the question about how much Amherst cares about the arts and what its elected officials are prepared to do to ensure there’s a future for the arts in this community?

Several years ago the town hired a consultant to meet with the arts community’s various stakeholders as part of the effort to develop an arts, culture and heritage strategy for the town – a plan to foster the growth of the arts while protecting our heritage so it can be enjoyed by future generations. It seems as though it has missed the mark.

Tantramar Theatre is but a shell of itself after being displaced from the Dominion Public Building as the town moved forward with plans to relocate town hall from the Confederation Memorial Building on Ratchford Street to the former post office. The town felt it had good reason to purchase the Dominion Building to save it from falling into disrepair and it very well may have been correct to move its offices to the building many consider the jewel of the downtown.

But, the displacement of the theatre out of the downtown continues to some to be a loss to the area in that people are no longer going to dinner or the lounge before going to or coming from the theatre – especially during the theatre’s summer season.

Now, Showcase Productions is indicating it’s prepared to leave Amherst to find a venue in which to offer its programs. Considering there isn’t a plethora of performing arts centres in this community it appears as though Amherst’s loss could be Sackville’s gain.

Showcase Productions pours several thousand dollars back into youth programs each year. It gives scholarships and bursaries to graduates going into the arts, it supports the youth group at the Baptist Church and it helps bring Neptune Theatre to Cumberland County. It also supported the spring musicals at Spring Street Academy and Cumberland North Academy.

Amherst cannot tell the school board how to manage the school, but it needs to protect its investment to ensure the community has access to the theatre. Sure, the performing arts may not be the priority that streets, streetlights and sidewalks are, but it’s important for the town to at least ask questions, consider both it and the Muncipality of Cumberland made a significant investment in that facility just over a decade ago.


Organizations: Susan Taylor Theatre, Amherst Regional High School, Central Regional School Board Tantramar Theatre Dominion Building Baptist Church Neptune Theatre Street Academy Cumberland North Academy

Geographic location: Chignecto, Ratchford Street, Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Al
    August 31, 2013 - 21:35

    $100,000 would buy a lot of paint for the many dilapidated homes in Amherst. You can't drive through town without seeing eyesores everywhere. Paint before entertainment!

  • Larry Fowler
    August 12, 2013 - 14:36

    Sometimes I think "Why did I leave Amherst 50 yr ago?" Then I remember. Town was stuck in the mud. Seem like not much has change. Still up to the axles in what looks like mud but might be something a little more smelly. :-( Sad!

  • Kev Corbett
    July 19, 2013 - 10:50

    Dear Amherst (by which I mean dear parents, dear artists, dear School Board, dear Ministers Leonard Preyra and Ramona Jennex): Please god, make it stop. If we had grown our art education infrastructure consistently since the 60s (when Amherst and Truro were leaders in Music Education, for example) instead of always questioning and cutting back at the official level, we could've had an entire generation of touring professional musicians, actors, and dancers exporting to the rest of the world *and bringing the money back*, plus an ecosystem of live venues for locals and CFAs, and arts conferences could come here (such as the annual NSMusic Week, in which I participate: that means 1000 visitors, and every hotel and bar FULL for 4 days). Those opportunities, and their echo effects of diversifying our local economy, creating and participating in NS's thriving culture scene, and giving our kids a reason to come back, are going to other towns. We needed the Tantramar. We need Showcase. We need more, not less. My kudos to everyone holding on and trying to make it happen. Kev Corbett Brookdale / Halifax

  • Win Some, Lose a Lot
    July 18, 2013 - 22:08

    Well, plain and simply put, somebody (be it a singular person or group) has changed the rules by the way of seizing control over our "Community Theatre". I feel that the taxpayers should all be allowed a vote in how this "theatre" is run. If not, they (Who write the guidelines and run the theatre) should be made to kindly return the $100,000 each to the Town & County, thus returning it back to the taxpayers. If this seems unreasonable, then it serves both the Town, County and the Community as a whole to lose what they once had. So while the ones responsible may seem to have won their "challenge", they have actually lost. I don't mean a small insignificant lose, it's a lose that's gonna affect the whole area. Disappointing to say the least.

  • Ed MacKay
    July 18, 2013 - 17:56

    As the founder of Showcase Productions 23 years ago, I am extremely proud of our accomplishments and the many young people we have helped to get started in the arts, like the recent organist of First Baptist Church; like the young woman who acted in London's west end and now appears on a weekly CBC show; like the many new music teachers we help get started. It makes me very sad because of the jealousy started by some small-minded people. The loss to Amherst will not soon be felt but it will take a great deal from Amherst.

  • Sad to See
    July 18, 2013 - 14:12

    ARHS is a P3 school and as such, leases the property (the school structure) . As a leassor, CCRSB is responsible for the structure including the Theatre. The Theatre was enhanced ($100,000 from the Town and $100,000 from County with Tax-payers $) and a "Community Theatre" was built. If a Community Theatre Group (Showcase) is having challenges with new Guidelines (posted on the ARHS Website) can the town step in (as a major contributor to the building of the Theatre) on behalf of of said Community Theatre Group?

  • Concerned citizen
    July 17, 2013 - 22:06

    First of all, what the people should know is it is not the school board's theatre to run. It is a community theatre housed in the school. Their property only, and 1 vote as per the usage committee. After all of the usage changes, it seems the only people that will be using it will have minimal setup as it appears you are only allowed to stand on stage and speak. I bet sackville would love to prosper from having showcase perform over there and benefit from the thousands of dollars given away in bursaries, scholarships, sponsorships that now go to amherst students. Shame on the amherst and county council for not caring about their investment.