By Lethbridge Herald on September 11, 2020.
The shovels went into the ground Friday afternoon at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden for a project that began six years ago.
A special ceremony for the new Nikka Yuko Bunka [Culture] Centre took place in front of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden with members of the Lethbridge & District Japanese Garden Society, City of Lethbridge and honoured dignitaries in attendance.
The Bunka Centre will allow the society to continue to grow programming and operations which will present the opportunity of generating increased revenue and being less weather-reliant.
“If you think about it, (since) 1967, this facility has looked like this for 53 years now,” said Brad Hembroff, president of the Lethbridge & District Japanese Garden Society. “With the co-operation of the City and the grant they’ve given we now have a new building we can demonstrate the history of the Japanese-Canadian connection that Lethbridge has, the third-largest Japanese-Canadian community in the country.
“So this building is simply an extension and the evolutionary growth of the Garden in terms of all the things we do from the very laid-back cultural aspects of the garden to now being able to show the history and to bring in weddings and do Japanese dance and dress and Taiko drumming. All of that will be offered here now.”
The ceremony included a smudging and land blessing by Elder Calvin Williams as well as a Calming of the Earth Spirits ceremony led by Reverend Yasuo Izumi from the Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta.
Also on hand for the ceremony was Shigenobu Kobayashi, the Consul-General of Japan as Mayor Chris Spearman and members from city council and the City of Lethbridge.
Since it began as a study by the University of Lethbridge in 2014, the Society has worked with City of Lethbridge representatives for public engagement and project development as well as the U of L Centre for Oral History and Tradition and Lethbridge College to create modern AV and VR programming for the new building.
The idea for the Nikka Yuko Bunka [Culture] Centre was presented by the Society to city council in 2017 and approved to be funded through the City’s Capital Improvement Program.
In 2018 the RFP for the building architect was awarded to Songer Architecture Inc., local to Lethbridge. The Society has also hired Christina Cuthbertson as an exhibit consultant to create educational and modern exhibit pieces that will be displayed in the new building.
“If you think about the garden, (it’s in) the top-10 gardens to visit in North America,” said Hembroff. “So this very exciting and a great tourist opportunity for the city. This is going to offer something the city hasn’t had in the past and we’re going to have some growth here.”
The building is scheduled to open in fall of 2021.
“This is an incredibly important project to our community,” said Spearman in a release. “Not only does this construction represent a boost in our local economy but it’s also an exciting evolution for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. This new centre expands the offerings at the Garden making it a truly year-round attraction for residents and visitors alike.”
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