In a bid to learn more about the Confederation Centre of the Arts’ history, I sought out Frank MacKinnon’s book Honour the founders! Enjoy the arts! : Canada’s Confederation Memorial in Charlottetown at the public library. The book, which details the history of the Centre from conception to birth, is a fascinating primer on how to accomplish an impossible project. My favourite passage is this, relating the initial reaction of Premier Matheson to the idea:
The premier’s reaction was all that could be expected at the time: “It cannot be done but if it can we will not stand in your way. You are on your own. We trust it will not cost any money but we will provide the site. If it is a gift we will accept it.” “Will you maintain it?” I asked. “Of course,” was the easy answer when success was not expected. And the premier gave hostages to fortune when he agreed to keep politics out of the project and discourage the interference that so often has ruined local enterprise on the Island and elsewhere. On several occasions he warned that I alone would take the blame should anything go wrong.
For anyone seeking to carry out a project that seems so absurd as to be dismissed out of hand at the mere mention of it, MacKinnon’s book is a must-read, for he provides, in compelling detail, how he managed to assemble the political will required to build the Centre. We owe him a debt, both for the Centre itself, but also for his willingness to lift the curtain and show how it was done.