After spending last year in a church basement, the young musicians in St. Mary’s Elementary’s band class can now breathe easily in their very own fine arts annex.

The growing St. Mary’s parish community rallied to build the annex after the Vancouver elementary school became too small for its needs, said principal Brenda Krivuzoff.

“A lot of people were involved, and it was a lot of resources, of course, but we just felt we really value our music program and fine arts program and wanted to give it a special place,” she said as the annex was blessed Sept. 25.

The fine arts annex, a portable structure in the parking lot behind the school, is the first small step toward a much greater expansion plan that would make St. Mary’s one of the first schools in Vancouver to incorporate a residential tower development.

Krivuzoff told The B.C. Catholic St. Mary’s is still in talks with the Archdiocese of Vancouver in the hope of moving ahead with plans to replace the existing school with a high-rise tower that would house school facilities as well as apartments.

The massive redevelopment project would replace a school deemed in 2013 to be high-risk in case of an earthquake. It would also increase school capacity by about 100 students and use income from the rental housing to help pay for the project.

Officials were optimistically hoping the project would be completed by 2020, with a second phase – replacing the high-risk parish rectory with two residential towers, a parish centre, and an adoration chapel – slated for completion in 2022, The B.C. Catholic reported in 2016.

Although the process has been delayed, Krivuzoff said “things are picking up pace.”

Principal Brenda Krivuzoff at the unveiling of the Fine Arts Annex.
Students play “When the Saints Go Marching In” inside the new structure.

New towers and construction cranes are easily visible from the school playground in the bustling and expanding Joyce-Collingwood neighbourhood. “We’ve done the demographic studies,” said Krivuzoff. 

“We’re definitely a growing area and I think a lot of people want to come to St. Mary’s. They value Catholic education and they want to come to their neighbourhood school.”

St. Mary’s currently has just under 300 students registered; the new school would be able to accommodate up to 400.

Father Guy Rivard, OP, pastor of St. Mary’s, blessed the Fine Arts Annex in the presence of Grade 5 students and a handful of staff.

“In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, and when he had finished his work of creation, he rested from his work. He took a step back, looked at all that he had made, and said, ‘Oh, I’m good. This is good. This is really, really good,’” said Father Rivard.

“Then he created us in his likeness and image … He created us, capable like him, of creating beauty. Beauty is what this fine arts annex is all about.”

Father Rivard, whose message was streamed live to about 50 classrooms and households, said beauty – found in instrumental music, song, or any other fine art – makes life worth living.

“Without it, life would be harsh and bleak … May this building always be a home of truth and goodness, of faith and goodwill toward all.”

Father Guy Rivard blesses the students and the fine arts annex.