Vancouver’s Out Under the Rainbow Spaces Society (OUR Spaces), tasked with building a multipurpose queer community centre, elected a nine-member board of directors at its first annual general meeting on April 19.
Six members of the new board — Laura McDiarmid, Gerry Kasten, James Beresford, Tony Correia, Sakino Sepulveda and Seán Cummings — were part of the 12-member temporary executive that formed OUR Spaces and registered it as a non-profit in BC last December.
Initially, the six were presented as a slate to continue the work already begun by the temporary executive.
But that proposal quickly raised concerns among attendees that the new society would be board-driven rather than membership-driven.
“I always prefer an organization that is membership-driven, not board-driven,” said Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva.
Another three members — Andrea Hector, Rick Lipus and Kim Kinakin — were subsequently nominated and elected from among the 25 people present at the AGM.
The fledgling society’s first AGM comes eight months after a town hall meeting harnessed longstanding community debate about creating a vibrant, well-funded multipurpose queer centre in a new, accessible home.
Kasten outlined the society’s goals, which include raising $70,000 in the next year.
As of April 1, the society has just under $500 in its bank account — mostly membership money, Beresford announced.
So far, the new group has conducted four membership drives, three in the West End and one on Commercial Dr, Correia, a columnist with Xtra, noted.
In one month, 54 new members have signed up.
“A lot of people were throwing money at us, which was scary and wonderful,” Correia said. “Everyone is like, ‘It’s about time.’”
The new centre has to be a “destination everyone wants to come to for a number of different reasons,” he emphasized.
For Correia, the biggest challenge is establishing the difference between Qmunity, which describes itself as a queer social services provider, and OUR Spaces, which intends to create a community hub, home to queer groups, performance and gathering spaces of all kinds.
McDiarmid said there’s a lot of goodwill from the mayor and city council to see a new centre happen.
She said she’s also had conversations with different developers that see a new centre as a “very, very likely proposal.”
She said the search for a site for the new centre will be focused in the West End “because this is the hub of our community.”
“There’s a number of spaces we are looking at that have potential — can’t say right now — but certainly if those came up, we’d push for that, and then we’d be absolutely approaching city hall,” she said.