Centre des Arts et de la Culture: closed for 10 years !

For 30 years, the Centre des Arts et de la Culture (Center for Arts and Culture) in Pointe-à-Pitre was “the temple of cultural life” in Guadeloupe. The building, which was old and too small to accommodate the public, was closed in 2008 for restructuring and modernization work that was to last, in principle, 5 years. The yard which was interrupted by various problems restarted. The future building should include as novelties a real music school, a showroom of 200 m2, an upmarket shop or restaurant etc. However, no one can say when this cultural building will be open to the public…

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In recent months, the new architecture of the Centre des Arts et de la Culture (Centre for Arts and Culture), which is next to the Place des Martyrs de la Liberté and the Pointe-à-Pitre City Hall, is finally emerging. We see that a huge “cube” was added to an old part of the building; this choice allows to keep part of the “soul” of the old building, some nostalgic people think…

In 2008, the structure closed down in order to begin its reconstruction for a total of 25 million euros brought, among others, by the Conurbation Cap Excellence, the European Community through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, the French government. Unfortunately, several problems slowed and even stopped the work that has been lasting for over eight years now.

It was first necessary to find a specialized company to remove asbestos considered now as carcinogenic in construction. This operation was carried out between 2010 and 2011.

Initially, it was a question of completely rebuilding the Centre, but changes to French earthquake-related standards resulted in additional costs, only part of the building (ie a third) was demolished in June 2013.

During a period when the work was stopped, we heard about the “quality of the concrete” which was not in conformity…

A few weeks ago, the workers were on strike… In short, all this generated a great waste of time.

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Flagship or ghost ship?

If the Centre des Arts et de la Culture was built over a period of three years (from 1975 to 1978) thanks a loan took out by the municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre from the Caisse des Dépôts & Consignations, it has already been ten long years since it is closed to the public and eight long years since its modernization and rehabilitation work started. In the meantime, other large buildings, such as the Memorial ACTe or, more recently, the new Law Courts, sprang up in the city…

We would think that the site would go faster because since December 2010 the municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre does not manage the Centre des Arts et de la Culture any more, it is the Conurbation Cap Excellence and it also pilots this rebuilding site. But, this is not the case. Finding someone from this local authority who gives you information is an obstacle course, we have a feeling that nobody wants to talk about this awkward subject… After all this is not very important because until now, all these people who talked gave erroneous information so they lost credibility. In the daily “France-Antilles” of June 12, 2012, Cap Excellence already announced the end of the renovation work on December 31, 2015 and the opening of the building in January 2016 with the recruitment of staff etc.

Described as the “flagship” of culture in the 2nd edition of the cultural magazine of the Conurbation Cap Excellence, is the Centre des Arts et de la Culture becoming a “ghost ship”?

In addition, since the beginning of last August, an orange “Maison du Projet” (Project House) was put down in front of the building under construction. This “tool” is in the law of February 24, 2014 of programming for the city and the social cohesion. The “Maison du Projet” allows to make the population a partner in a project, to build with and for the inhabitants.We can wonder why was it so slow in coming? The population hoped to finally get more information about this new cultural place which is under construction but this “Maison du Projet” remains closed.

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A new modern center of over 7,000 m2

The delay taken by the construction site forced artists, show promoters, members and spectators to go frequently to other places on the island which can be seen as a certain cultural “redistribution” on the territory of Guadeloupe.

Indeed, cultural events take place on other stages like the Salle George Tarer, the Centre Culturel Sonis, the Palais des Sports Paul Chonchon and the Memorial ACTe in Pointe-à-Pitre, the Salle Robert Loyson in Le Moule, the Auditorium in Basse-Terre, the Hall des Sports Laura Flessel in Petit-Bourg, the Gymnase Valère Lami in Baie-Mahault, the Hall des Sports Teddy Riner in Goyave, the Palais des Sports in Le Gosier etc.

If there is no other trouble to disrupt the progress of the work, the Centre des Arts et de la Culture, new version, should, one day, be completed but it is better not to set a date…

The new centre of more than 7000 m2 should have several rooms. First, the long stairs should disappear and on the ground floor there should be a upmarket shop or a restaurant that would increase the value of local products, a library and a music school.

On the other floors, there should be a dance space, a theater room, rehearsal studios, two auditoriums, a showroom of 200 m2, dressing rooms etc.

However, all this seems a bit confused. It was often said that the auditorium with its 1 100 seats was too small and needed to be absolutely bigger. It must be noted that 40 years ago, the municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre wanted to build a room with 1 800 seats but this idea was abandoned through lack of financial means. Will this room keep the same number of seats in view of the fact that it is located in the wing of the building that was not demolished ? Will it be just renovated?

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The historical center of cultural life

For three decades, the Centre des Arts et de la Culture hosted almost all of the events related to cultural and artistic life and sometimes to the social and economic life in Guadeloupe. These include exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography, plays, concerts, recitals, singing and poetry competitions, traditional, modern and classical dance performances, Miss Guadeloupe and Queen of Elders contests, book fair and home fair, school year-end shows, fashion shows, video shootings, conferences and more. In short, this place was an absolute must for all artists – stars and debutant artists – from Guadeloupe, the Caribbean and the rest of the world and the audience came from all the towns of the island and somewhere else.

At that time, the many activities proposed by the Centre des Arts et de la Culture were a good reason to come to live in Pointe-à-Pitre.

When the Centre closed, the city of Pointe-à-Pitre obviously lost a large part of its attractiveness. It remains to be seen whether the cultural events that will be scheduled by the future staff will give back to it its renown of the past. The war of chiefs has already begun to take over the Centre des Arts et de la Culture, new version, the name of the present director of the Centre Culturel Sonis is mentioned…