The folks at Magic Palace, like many other businesses, barely made it through the pandemic.
But after months of hard work, they’re back on their feet, and they’re ready to share the prosperity – with a $1 million donation to Kahnawake’s soon-to-be built Cultural Arts Centre.
Located on Highway 132, Magic Palace is an Electronic Gaming Device (EGD) facility under the jurisdiction of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK).
The Cultural Arts Centre will house the Kanein’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KOR), Turtle Island Theatre, and a Tourism Visitors Center.
For Louie John Diabo, communications director at Magic Palace, the decision to invest in local projects was an easy one.
“We’ve been giving about $150,000 per year to organizations, individuals, private causes, the schools, things like that,” he explained.
“We’re finally in a financial position that we’re able to do something more significant like this. We saw our counterparts, Playground, made a contribution. We have a great relationship with them, and we saw this is the cause right now in the community. So this was the right thing to do.”
Playground, Magic Palace, and Mohawk Online are now the biggest three donors to the project.
Mohawk Online is the lead donor, having recently donated $5 million to help get the project on its feet.
“We’re thrilled to hear that another community business is investing in the project,” said Kawennanóron Lisa Phillips, executive director of KOR.
“It’s definitely encouraging that our community sees the value in what KOR does, as well as theatre and tourism.” The Kahnawake Cultural Arts Center Capital Campaign has been working to raise $16 million, which together with outside funding would allow for the construction of the new building.
“I want it to be a focal point for the community, where they can go to have that space to do whatever they wish to do,” explained Phillips.
“Come learn more, come visit our library, come see our museum. Take pride. I see it as a source of pride and a gathering place for the community.” The team at Magic Palace sees that vision.
COURTESY KOR “In light of everything that’s been going on in our community with reclaiming our culture, reclaiming our language, putting arts in the forefront of the community, it’s significant,” said Diabo.
“It’s something we want to be a part of, because we share those exact beliefs, you know?” MCK grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer has been leading the Capital Campaign Cabinet and overseeing fundraising efforts.
“On behalf of the Capital Campaign Cabinet and the proponents who will be occupying this state of the art and much-needed building, I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Magic Palace for this generous contribution,” said Sky-Deer.
“We are still in the silent phase of the campaign, but every single donation no matter the amount, is important. We hope that these types of community donations will continue to come forward as we move closer to realizing our $16-million objective.” Diabo also noted that Magic Palace was excited to make history with their donation.
With such a monumental gift, they are hoping to be a part of the legacy of the centre.
“It’s not often we get requests from something that’s like a forever thing,” Diabo said. “We get a lot of requests for hockey jerseys, lacrosse trips, classes that need a pizza party, a sponsor for their Christmas party, but this is something that’s going to have a long future. We’ll be part of a legacy after I’m gone.”
Diabo and the Magic Palace team are particularly excited for the new theatre space, which will be used by the Turtle Island Theatre company.
“Our children, our grandchildren, hopefully they’ll all use this theater,” Diabo said.
“It’s huge, it’s so big! It’s going to be the largest project in the community after the hospital, and so we’re excited to be a part of it all.” Phillips noted that the space should be big enough to accommodate a wide range of creative projects for community members.
“I’ve been having talks with different people, with artists, and with filmmakers, and other people who work in those fields too,” she explained. “We’ve been making sure that we have space within the building for those people to do the work that they do, have space for the passion they have.”
The building is still in the process of being constructed, but artist renderings and preliminary plans have already started to create a picture of the kind of building stakeholders envision.
The building is slated to be ready in 2025, with hopes to break ground in the spring of 2023.
The Capital Campaign continues to accept donations towards their $16-million target as they prepare for the building’s official launch in the not too distant future.
“I just want to see this building!” said Phillips. “I was on the site two weeks ago to look at it, and envision it there, in that space. And then I can see the different ideas and different things that could take place there.”
Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door, and was previously an Editor at the McGill Daily. She has also reported on harm reduction and Indigenous issues for the Montreal Gazette, the Hoser, the Rover, and more.