Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre

The Gabriola Arts Council has officially renamed its building

The Board of the Gabriola Arts Council is pleased to announce a new name for its building, previously known as the Women’s Institute Hall (WI Hall). The new name—Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre—reflects not only the current and future uses of the building, but also its history and legacy.

GAC President Jim Wilson-Storey says, “It’s a big moniker for a little building, and the Board carefully considered the decision. ’Arts’ reflects the new function of the building as an arts and culture hub for the community, and because it is home and headquarters for the Gabriola Arts Council. ‘Heritage’ speaks to the rich history of the building: It was built in 1928 as a one-room schoolhouse, a function it served for almost forty years until the Gabriola Women’s Institute took over. The WI used the building as their meeting space and clubhouse, and also ran Gabriola’s first museum and first library here. By including ‘heritage’ in the building’s official name, GAC honours the legacy of the generous members of the WI who gifted the property to the Arts Council, while also acknowledging the other pioneers and community members who played a role in building, operating, and maintaining the building for almost a century.”

Very few truly old and/or heritage structures still stand on Gabriola—the United and Catholic churches are the only buildings remaining from this era. Acknowledging the history of the building, and the people and stories associated with it, is important to the GAC Board members, who see themselves as stewards of this important community asset. As renovations to the building continue, the Board is committed to ensuring that this legacy will be acknowledged in other ways, including through plaques and displays. In addition, the trail across the property, built by Gabriola Lands and Trails Trust (GaLTT), will officially be named the Gabriola Women’s Institute Trail.

The Gabriola Women’s Institute donated their building to the Gabriola Arts Council (GAC) in 2014. GAC has undertaken a variety of renovation and upgrade projects ever since, while developing and refining the long-term vision for the property. That vision—supported by a team of skilled and committed volunteers—includes the creation of a fully equipped 40-seat performance and gallery space with high-end sound and lighting features; an arts-and-culture resource library; a fully accessible space that can be rented for community, public, and private functions; and an effective, efficient administrative office for the Arts Council from which we can continue to develop and organize arts and culture programming for all Gabriolans, and fulfil GAC’s vision for “a creative, engaged, and inclusive community sustaining Gabriola’s vibrant island culture.”

A number of important developments have been completed, including: converting the galley kitchen (previously the school’s cloakroom) into an office and a mini-kitchen (with beautifully designed and skilfully hand-built cupboards and file cabinets, live-edge counter and desktop, office storage space, and an on-demand hot water tank); adding phone and Wi-Fi service; upgrading the power to 250 amps; installing an energy-efficient heat pump; installing new motion-sensor safety lights on the building’s exterior; and removing the bookshelves and cupboards to create clean walls suitable for hanging art shows. A trail from the parking lot to North Rd. has been roughed in by GaLTT, leading to the Rite of Passage art installation (currently undergoing maintenance).

Work in progress includes: installing two new cisterns and upgrading the gutter and plumbing systems to ensure an effective supply of potable and non-potable water; removing the old-school (literally!) fluorescent lights and replacing them with a multi-faceted lighting system that will work for art shows, performances, meetings, and general use; a built-in, high-level sound system to accommodate a variety of performance and entertainment uses; a renovated washroom that’s wheelchair accessible; repairs to the water-damaged foundation at the south side of the building; and a storage room addition for chairs, tables, and other GAC equipment and supplies.

A number of longer-term plans are in the works and on the drawing table.

The GAC Board would like to gratefully acknowledge the members of the Gabriola Women’s Institute; the numerous volunteers who have made invaluable contributions to the project so far; Arbutus Building Supplies and Village Food Market for their generous offerings; and all donors, funders, and others who have played a role in the transformation of this community building. Thanks also to everyone who offered suggestions and ideas for the building’s new name.

Are you interesting in contributing to the renovation process? We are looking for volunteers to help with a variety of building-related tasks. Send a note to Michelle and tell her that you’d like to be part of this exciting project.



Michelle Benjamin, Executive Director
Gabriola Arts Council

Street address:

Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre
476 South Road
Gabriola Island, BC
V0R 1X0

Mailing address:

PO Box 387
Gabriola Island, BC
V0R 1X0

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