A&E » Arts

Arts and culture absent from election discussions

A cultural plan is “absolutely critical,” says former arts council chair



The municipal budget. Tax increases. Affordability. All sexy election issues right? And the vast majority of candidates have touched on these as central tenets of their platforms.

And yet culture, and cultural tourism specifically, has been largely absent from the campaign discourse. Considering it's an idea that town leaders are so keen on initializing as a way to diversify Whistler's offerings, a surprisingly low number of candidates are raising the issue.

Only five candidates - Mayor Ken Melamed, mayoral candidate Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and council candidates Ted Milner, Dave Buzzard and Steve Andrews - have addressed arts and culture in their platforms. Only Wilhelm-Morden has discussed heritage.

Buzzard and Andrews have discussed the issue in terms of how to promote and aid in developing the local cultural landscape, while the other three have talked about it only in terms of driving room nights.

But the most compelling piece of this discussion revolves around the development of a cultural plan - a road map for what Whistler's arts, culture and heritage landscape will look like, and how to get there.

Wilhelm-Morden says that rather than "throwing money at things (and) hoping that some of it sticks" a cultural plan is essential for Whistler to reach its goals.

"I think what we need is a road map as to how to expand our offerings in arts, culture and heritage and those kinds of things that will attract a different type of guest, or at least provide even to our current guests, different experiences," she says.


She says the future for Whistler's cultural landscape involves broadening its festival offerings. Cornucopia, Children's Art Festival, Whistler Film Festival and the Whistler Art Workshops on the Lake are popular events with both visitors and locals, and provide a blueprint for what Whistler can work with.


"Through the development of a plan and through the emphasis and support on arts, culture and heritage, we would have so many additional experiences to offer to our guests, which can make us nothing more than an appealing resort to visit," Wilhelm-Morden says.


Joan Richoz, former chair of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), said culture should "definitely" be an election issue.


"Given the success of the cultural events and programs that we worked on with Whistler Live, or the past summer with Whistler Presents, and the recommendations of the cultural tourism development strategy ( A Tapestry of Place: Whistler's Cultural Tourism Development Strategy ) that Steven Thorne did, I think that it should be an election issue. I think that getting a comprehensive cultural plan for the community is absolutely critical," Richoz says.