Far fewer Whistler residents see arts programming and facilities as a funding priority compared with other municipal services, a recent survey found.
The survey, which was circulated to permanent residents and second homeowners in Whistler between Feb. 20 and March 4, shows that in both groups, the fewest number of respondents see funding for the arts as a high priority when it comes to allocating the budget for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
The question posed to respondents asked them to identify what was a high, medium or low priority out of a list that included snow clearing on roads, transit services, and recycling.
Twenty-five per cent of permanent residents saw arts programming and facilities as a high priority, compared with 77 per cent who saw snow clearing on roads and highways as a high priority.
Fewer respondents among second homeowners saw the arts as a high priority for budget allocation — 15 per cent saw it that way, while 87 per cent, more than five times the respondents, saw snow clearing as a high priority.
The results were not surprising for Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council.
“I think often that residents see things like snow clearing and fire and garbage as more important as primary things that government should be spending their money on,” Niedermayer said. “I don’t think that necessarily determines what the real value of the cultural community is, I think it just reflects that people find snow clearing important so that they can drive places.”
She added that she would not prioritize arts programming and facilities above services such as basic maintenance and garbage.
Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, a councillor with the RMOW and member of the arts council board of directors, said the municipality attaches a high level of importance to arts and culture. She added that the survey is just one of several factors taken into account when considering cultural funding.
The RMOW spent $1,995,110 on arts and culture in 2006, while in 2007 it spent $1,719,542, according to a financial statement from the municipality.
“The actual amount of money that's spent by the municipality on arts, culture and heritage is really quite significant,” Wilhelm-Morden said. “The survey was conducted during the winter, and this was one of the heaviest snow years we've had in recent memory, so snow clearing was uppermost in the respondents' minds.”
The survey also came amidst a series of cultural events held in Whistler as part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, an annual cultural festival being held in anticipation of the 2010 Olympics. About 10 Cultural Olympiad events were held in Whistler between February and March.
The results also came after a January announcement by the federal government that Whistler would be a 2009 Cultural Capital of Canada, a designation recognizing Canadian municipalities that organize events celebrating arts and culture.
Whistler received the distinction in recognition of Celebration 2020: A Natural Step Towards Cultural Sustainability, a planned event that will comprise a series of festivals as well as workshops for artists in the area.
The survey, carried out by Vancouver-based Mustel Group, included 700 interviews — 300 were with permanent residents and 200 were conducted with second-homeowners. Yet another 200 interviews were done with seasonal residents, although the survey did not cite the results among seasonal residents.
Results of the survey were shown to Whistler council in a PowerPoint presentation on May 5. Official results will be released in early June, said Dan Wilson, monitoring coordinator for Whistler 2020.