#See You…at Some Point, Simcoe

It’s the law of the universe; you think you have everything figured out and life throws you a curveball. What do you do when that happens? You roll with the punches. You take it day by day. You keep your spirits high and remain positive. You do everything we did, but guess what? Just because you did all these things, does not mean things will work out right away. Our expansion to Simcoe has been a journey with many twists and turns, and we think it’s about time we told our story. So sit back, relax and enjoy (maybe get some popcorn and settle in, this is a long one!)

Newly incorporated back in November 2018, Art with Heart Studio found a beautiful space in downtown Simcoe on Norfolk Street that we could grow into; a space that would serve our students the way we always hoped. Larger class sizes, enough room to host large events, accessible for everyone, the vision was FINALLY coming to life! With a budget of about $20,000 for the move and main floor renovations, and a $50,000 loan from Venture Norfolk, we had BIG plans for the upstairs AND downstairs of our new establishment. As with most things, it would be worth it but it wasn’t going to come easy. 

A seemingly straightforward moving plan became a 7 month permit and renovation nightmare. A July 1, 2019 opening date was pushed to September, then to November, then to the new year. We scrambled to find other venues to host already booked classes and strived to make the best out of a difficult situation every day. But what went wrong? 

First, we were told we needed a change of use for the space. The current use was retail and because we offer more classes than retail, we needed a usage change to assembly. At the building department, we were told we would need drawings from our contractor to show the scope of renovations in order to receive our building permit and change of use permit. We found a general contractor, had them do up drawings for the job scope, and were back at the county about 5 weeks after our initial visit. At this point we were informed that our contractor drawings were insufficient and we actually needed architectural drawings before we could receive our building permit.

So, everything was put on hold as we waited for the architects to do their thing (about 7 weeks; ~$2,700). In the meantime, the amazing team at the Norfolk Arts Centre allowed us to run our summer camps from their beautiful home. Once all our drawings were submitted to the county, they came back with revisions – we now needed to find electrical, mechanical and structural engineers to do more drawings (~$2,200). It took us several weeks to get the appropriate people into the space, and that is when we received word that our HVAC system would need a complete upgrade to allow for the appropriate fresh air circulation needed for the change of use. The engineer now had to do drawings for this redesign as well (~$3,400). Once we got these drawings, we were off again, calling anyone and everyone who does HVAC; gathering quotes. Of the 6 or 7 quotes we received, it was clear – this was going to be expensive… To the tune of ~$22,000. 

So if you’re following along with the math, we budgeted ~$20,000 (for our contractor to build two bathrooms, add a couple walls and for aesthetics; signage, paint, fixtures, etc) for this move. With the added costs of architects, engineers and now HVAC, we were way over budget. Our studio had now been closed for several months, so we were also losing income on all of the extra pop up classes, events, and birthday parties that we typically book. All we could do was wait and run our main after school programs out of incredibly generous store owners’ back rooms, like Sloths & Molasses, and supportive church halls.

We were told the part we needed for the HVAC had to be specially made and ordered in and it would be an 8 week waiting period to get the part. And so, the waiting game continued. 

In the meantime, we were hopeful that we could get our interior renovations completed. There were two new bathrooms to finish, one bathroom to upgrade, cubbies for the kids, a couple of non-supporting walls and a back door. Easy peasy, right? Unfortunately, we were also having issues with our contractor and the work was slow going and eventually at a stand still. We’d spent ~$6,000 on materials that never made it to the studio. Ultimately, we decided it was in our best interest to involve our lawyer.

So, here is where we are at now: we no longer have a contractor, our materials never showed up and we are still waiting on that HVAC part to be delivered. But we WILL be opening this studio and it WILL be amazing! We are going to arrange our plumbers, framers and electricians to come in; making sure everything is to code and properly done according to our drawings. Over the Christmas break we will be at the studio day and night drywalling, taping, mudding and painting.  (Nikki will also have to make time to write the next Drama Kidz play!)

Because here’s the thing; we’ve seen what Art with Heart Studio means to this community. It is shown in the smiling faces of the youth in our theatre program. It is seen in the beautiful art adorning so many walls in homes all over Norfolk County. It is obvious when over 125 medium pizzas are sold in a day because it is a fundraiser for Art with Heart. It is clear when local businesses open their shops and hearts to make sure our students have a creative space to call home.

Norfolk County is our home, you are our people and we will get this done. For you, for all of us.

And after all this chaos, sacrifice and turmoil, it’ll be even more beautiful and have more heart than ever before because it was love that helped Art with Heart Studio survive.

* Please note that although we are a not for profit organization, we are not a charity and cannot issue tax receipts for donations.

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