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Artists making a Point

Proposal for community art centre on lakefront municipal land inching forward



Whistler artists are asking the Resort Municipality of Whistler to put its money where its mouth is and support the seeds of an initiative that will improve cultural tourism and give local artists a chance to thrive.

Last week, around 20 artists and supporters gathered at Creekbread to discuss strategies relating to the Point Artist-Run Centre (PARC) on Alta Lake on the site of the former Hostelling International Hostel. The land and its seven buildings is owned by the municipality, but PARC's board wants to lease it and create a locale similar to the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Spearheading the plan is The Point, a non-profit society comprised of local artists intent on developing a more secure and diverse arts community in Whistler.

"It's as grass roots as it gets - we are the ones who know what the creative artists need in this town, and we're the ones with the passion, the know-how and the connections with the artists outside of Whistler, so it's exciting to start something new," said writer Stephen Vogler, who has lived on the land in question for 17 years.

"The (Whistler) Arts Council has been around for 27 years and they do a great job with what they do bringing a lot of art and performances into Whistler, but this is sort of coming from the creators themselves. When the community gets to a certain point of maturity, I think the artists need to take a bit more autonomy and start building it for themselves."

Currently, the property is used by the Whistler Sailing Club and the houses are rented. The area is slated to become part of the Resort Municipality of Whistler's parks system and for now council hasn't received any other proposals for alternative use.

Before any decisions can be made the RMOW's Park Master Plan, which was last modified in 1996, has to be updated to better define the community and the resort's current needs. A building assessment has been done and upgrades are necessary, but for now the RMOW is focusing on bringing forward a balanced budget.

"We're certainly entertaining any proposals that are put forward and for now we're waiting to find out what the long term plan for the property is," said Jan Jansen, RMOW's general manager of resort experience.

"We've got some budget challenges and we can't grow those challenges so it's no different than any municipal property, we need to look at it carefully and make sure that we're not creating a greater problem than we already have."

To develop their vision, PARC would need to upgrade the six houses and main lodge on the property, with renovations running from minimal to extensive. The land would remain open to the public and the buildings used for workspaces, galleries, performances, education, and artists-in-residence. Income generated from various festivals, a café and rental space would keep the centre in the black.