Even with all the recent news about their former home, the Khyber Art Society itself has been relatively quiet lately. That’s likely due to the difficult task of finding a replacement artistic director after the recent departure of Daniel Joyce for greener pastures.
Today, the Khyber’s board announced that out of 20 applicants and several interviews, Hannah Guinan has been chosen to captain the ship.
“Hannah brings her extensive prior experience in Khyber events management to her new administrative role,” Andrew McLaren, chair of the Khyber’s board of directors, writes in a release.
Guinan’s been a Khyber mainstay for a while now, working as a membership and event coordinator. For the month of August, vice-chair Krista Hull will take over as interim director while Guinan fulfills “other prior commitments.”
Finding a replacement for Joyce, at a time when the Khyber building might be sold, has made for a difficult decision-making process, says McLaren.
“The Khyber Board will be assuming a larger role in administration during a lot of this transitional time,” he writes in an email to The Coast. “More eyes on the ball while we’re in this halfway house situation!”
For transparency’s sake, it should be mentioned our arts editor Steph Johns is on the Khyber board of directors, but she wasn’t involved in this article.
The Khyber Arts Society will hold its annual general meeting this October, where members are invited to meet the new artistic director and discuss the group’s future. Hopefully, that won’t be too late for the Khyber’s original location on Barrington Street.
The KAS has been working out of a space on Cornwallis St. since the spring when they were “temporarily” evicted from their Barrington home. City staff is now recommending that Victorian-era property be declared surplus and put up for sale—a decision met with sharp criticism from local councillor Waye Mason.
“The municipality has been neglecting this building both physically and in terms of programming since it was acquired by the city for a dollar in the 1980s,” Mason writes on his website.
The downtown councillor says he’ll attempt to have the building removed from the proposed list of surplus properties to allow more time for discussions on how to pay the over four million dollars in repairs engineers estimate the 126-year-old building needs.
Halifax has previously designated the Khyber Centre as a “Cultural Incubator” in 2010 and a key part of its five-year cultural strategy.
If there’s a silver lining for the Khyber, it might be that the building is in such terrible shape nobody will want to buy it.
“The four million is just to make it safe, not habitable,” says Jeff Webber. “It’s economically unreasonable.”
Webber, president of AR Webber Properties, owns the historic Green Lantern building across the street on Barrington, which he’s had some trouble renovating. Those plans are “still in neutral,” he says.
The developer says it’s unlikely any property buyer would find the Khyber’s dilapidated state an attractive option, particularly as its Heritage Property status strictly limits how the property can be redeveloped.
“I don’t know who in their right mind would want to go into that building and a spend millions,” he says, “and above that spend a fortune more to make it attractive.”