This week in Portage la Prairie started out with the grand opening of the Portage Centennial Academy for the Arts (PCAA). Branden Leslie was on hand, who's running for candidacy for the Portage-Lisgar MP, wishes them well on their new endeavour. 

It's located at the former Ukrainian Centennial Hall, and that older name was incorporated into the new organization and forms their catalyst for inspiration in the arts throughout our community.

Branden LeslieBranden Leslie

Boss Dance Academy owner-operator Bretton Selent says they always had their sights set on offering and creating spaces to cultivate the arts. Then COVID hit.

"Everything went on pause and, through COVID, we took over this building," says Selent. "We did our renos, our updating and now we're just at the place where we're excited to take that next step in bringing people in and opening the doors."

Selent says their offering of arts programs pretty much runs the gamut.  

"We have film, we have dance, we have theatre, and we have musical theatre," explains Selent. "There is vocal stuff that we do, culinary arts, crafting, and painting. So, pretty much all modalities of art -- stage, and combat stunting. It's kind of a little bit of everything. Check our website for all of the details on classes and stuff that we offer. "

Prairie Drama Academy Executive Producer Chris Kitchen adds he's excited to be part of the community and to see this new endeavour begin.

"The North End is chosen specifically because this is an area that doesn't have a lot of organizations that come into it," notes Kitchen. "We've had two very successful Halloween events in which over 300 people came to each night, and they were all from the community. We're excited to be a part of things. We heard so many good things afterward that we know we did the right decision in being here. These are our neighbours now and we want to help support them. Want to help support the area that we're in."

Branden Leslie commented on how the team did a great job in breathing new life into the building, noting he attended nursery school there. 

"This is where audiences will be transported to new worlds and where they can laugh, cry, and be moved by the power of human expression," says Leslie. "And it will be a place for those in our community, particularly young people, who will come to learn, practice and showcase their talents. Projects like this don't happen overnight. It takes time, efforts and resources. I know you all worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality, and thank you for letting me be a part of this celebration."

Selent took PortageOnline for a tour of the facility, including a basement theatre setting.

"Whoever uses this space, it can be customized to what their event is," adds Selent. "So, for instance, we could do theatre in the round where the stage is in the middle and all the seats are around it. We could do a runway for, say, a fashion show. We can do a small stage setup for more of a coffee house. We do dinner theatres, as well. We have a commercial kitchen. Stages can be set up in the corners, and then tables and chairs set up for dinner theatres. We have all the availability to have a really unique customizable theatre location for also smaller artists that maybe can't afford other venues in town. Where they have to sell 400 seats, this would be 100 seats."