Arts and culture workshop a success Consultant pleased with above average attendance By Paul Andrew Organizers of a cultural workshop held Jan. 29 are pleased with the turnout, saying for a mobile, transient community such as Whistler to draw more than 50 people from almost all aspects of the resort is exceptional. And they say the meeting produced enough ideas and comments on those ideas regarding Whistler’s cultural direction, to keep men such as Warren Sommer busy for the next two or three months, when the final report will be available to Whistler residents. But interested residents won’t have to wait until the spring to analyse the ideas which came out of the three-hour workshop at the Whistler Conference Centre. More than a dozen large presentation-sized charts, filled with words scribbled, written and printed large and small, were recorded word for word and will be on display at the municipal hall in a more legible form by the end of February. Sommer, who is the principal of Legacy Heritage Consultants based in Langley, says he was impressed with the large turn-out Saturday, given Whistler’s relatively small full-time population. "I was involved in a similar study in a community 10 times the size of Whistler and not many more came out than at the workshop Saturday," Sommer said Wednesday. "And I commented on that. I’ve been involved in this kind of thing for 25 years and for a non-contentions issue such as arts and culture, there’s obviously a lot of interest in Whistler. And I don’t think you can compare Whistler to any other community." Sommer says culture is probably the hardest word in the English language to define, and that sometimes narrow interpretations scare some people, who might think of opera and tuxedos when they hear the word. He agreed that skiing, snowboarding, Whistler’s nightlife and summer sports do make up a lot of the cultural scene, but he points out similar areas such as Aspen have succeeded in adding to their mountain culture with more than 50 galleries, numerous, well established festivals, and a "myriad" of organizations all working with the same vision. But Sommer is quick to point out Aspen’s gold rush background that dates back to the late 1800s, and also philanthropist Walter Pepke’s investment in the arts in Aspen. "You can look to Aspen," Sommer added. "But this has to be a made-in-Whistler solution." A few of the most popular ideas recorded by Sommer on Saturday included support of a fine arts school similar to the Banff Centre in Alberta, a summer theatre/artist studio which would possibly include an artists residence in a warehouse type setting, and the wild card suggestion that BCIT is willing to convert the former Mountain World space into a satellite campus for communications, noted by only one person. "The potential for a communication/arts centre, in addition to the suggestion that CBC is also willing to broadcast from Whistler, are both positive for sure," Sommer said. "There were a lot of ideas about facilities that have big price tags. But it was also suggested to me that Millennium Place could be adapted to accommodate those things. You can’t go out and build independent structures for single functions. "One of the things that will come out of all of this is to facilitate a joint vision among the arts groups in Whistler," Sommer explained. "And I’m sure anybody in business would like to get on board. Then of course, there’s the (2010) Olympic bid, which could bring all sorts of facilitates to Whistler. Expo 86 brought in a lot of things for Vancouver and it raised tourism significantly." Whistler may not need a world-wide exposition or sporting event to put it on the cultural map, but if the five or six major players in Whistler move ahead during the next 10 years with consultants’ strategic recommendations in mind, it’s possible the young arts and cultural scene in Whistler could prosper, add revenue and expose the visual arts as a major part of Whistler’s identity. "There was a wave of these studies done 10 years ago," Sommer added. Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby... which happens after a community has its infrastructure in place. They’ve realized that the cultural possibilities in their communities might help the economy."