The building has been a place of worship, a country bar called the Witchita, and a performing arts venue. The latest chapter takes place in an arts centre called The OV, named with a nostalgic nod to its home on Old Victoria Road.
It was a church over 125 years ago, before becoming a nightclub destination, and then back to a church once more before the City of Nanaimo purchased the building in 2008 as a performing arts venue, Nanaimo Centre Stage. In 2014, the newly formed Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society (HCTAS) signed a three-year co-management agreement with the City to operate the creative space at 25 Victoria Road, and the Harbour City Theatre was born.
In the years since, the stage, lobby, and seating area have undergone improvements. HCTAS also built a secondary rehearsal hall and stage on the lower level of the building and added new affordable office space upstairs to help better meet the local art communities’ needs.
In addition, The OV’s technical equipment has been upgraded to include environmentally friendly instruments, like digital sound and lighting boards and LED lighting, as well as boosting our overall tech performance and possibilities. And further tech upgrades are planned now that HCTAS holds a 10-year agreement with the City of Nanaimo to co-manage and operate this creative space.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Arts Council supported HCTAS in a digital pivot to install a new, professional 3-camera streaming system for the main stage. The City of Nanaimo also completed major exterior renovations to the building’s facade in early 2021.
The new facade was revealed from beneath layers of scaffolding and skrim. With the new look came a new identity, officially becoming “The OV Arts Centre.” The shift points to the Society’s desire to serve a broader cross-section of the community and create opportunities and affordable rental space for an expanded range of artistic disciplines.
In July 2020, The OV began its careful COVID reopening by slowly welcoming creatives, community groups and audience back to the space.
The Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society (HCTAS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and supporting a vibrant and diverse arts scene in Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island. The experienced professionals of the HCTAS volunteer board and management boast an impressive combined experience in the performing arts sector. HCTAS commits to offering an affordable and versatile venue for creatives and community groups, while remaining financially stable and self-sustaining for the future. HCTAS also functions as a producing house, running fundraisers and events throughout the year to help pay for the theatre’s day-to-day operations and keep the costs to our creative clientele affordable.