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Arts council lays out 2014 achievements and new strategic plan at AGM

Fifteen strategies and 32 deliverable goals identified for next five years

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The Whistler Arts Council (WAC) wants to create "a vibrant resort community where arts, culture and heritage are essential."

This vision was laid out in the arts council's five-year strategic plan for 2015 to 2020, which was presented at its annual general meeting on Wednesday, May 27. The new plan will replace the WAC's 10-year strategic vision for 2005 to 2015.

Nineteen members of the arts council were present, with quorum set at 17.

Keith Bennett, chair of the WAC board of directors, said the council had achieved many of their key objectives for the past 10 years, including maximizing opportunities that came from the 2010 Winter Olympics, developing the relationship with the Resort Municipality of Whistler in order to create the Cultural Tourism Development Strategy and the Community Cultural Plan.

"I believe that the work done by the board and staff over the past year has positioned WAC to take on the challenges of tomorrow and the expanded role of contributing to the growth of the resort economy," Bennett said in his report to members.

In the new strategic plan to replace this, strategies were identified to support the WAC mission of "enriching Whistler by cultivating and celebrating artistic creativity, collaborating with stakeholders and engaging residents and visitors in arts, culture and heritage."

Shannon Gordon of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, along with Peter Abrams of Dovetail Consulting, put together the new plan. They worked with the arts council's board and staff.

Input was taken from February to April this year.

Gordon said: "Why strategic planning? It's about bringing a team together and moving in the same direction and working towards a shared goal or vision."

In terms of gathering useful information, a basic survey to 30 stakeholders, including artists and resort partners, was followed by a more detailed survey for WAC board members and staff, she added.

"This was to gather input to give a sense of direction, where people in the organization think it is going," Gordon said.

A further set of interviews with stakeholders and artists was summarized and led to a one-day workshop to create the first version of the plan.

It was finalized a month ago.

Bennett said the key to the plan was its four priorities: supporting the development and creative expression of Whistler's artists and groups; fostering rich and diverse arts, culture and heritage (ACH) offerings; growing ACH's contribution to the resort economy; and strengthening the WAC's organizational capacity.

The plan's 15 strategies and 32 deliverables stemmed from this.

Strategies include: promoting WAC by telling its story via rebranding the organization and Millennium Place; further establishing Millennium Place as a hub as part of the cultural connector plan; convening the arts, culture and heritage sector annually to better coordinate programs and resources; refining the WAC's organizational structure; and to identify joint venture opportunities to improve private and public sector opportunities.

"We develop a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) snapshot and then we looked at where we are going and where we are now, and key deliverables," Gordon said.

Bennett added: "There is a big shift in what we do now, that is contributing to the resort economy. It is something we have done in the past but it has not quite registered like it has today."

Meanwhile, the 2014 annual report painted a picture of success for last year.

WAC received $74,756 in donations and sponsorship, had 464 members and 183 volunteers.

As well, $13,912.59 in local art was sold at Millennium Place, up 63 per cent, with 216 artists paid. Summer art workshops on Alta Lake, coordinated with Emily Carr University of Art and Design, were 75 per cent sold out.

WAC executive director Doti Niedermayer introduced her 17-member staff to give their department's reports individually.

"I'm blown away every day by our team," Niedermayer said.

Visual arts programmer Andrea Mueller said Artwalk 2014 saw 50 artists on show at 35 venues. As well, 135 emerging and professional artists were on show last year at The Gallery at Millennium Place (formerly the Scotia Creek Gallery).

She said she was particularly proud of the activity at Millennium Place, the WAC's concert and arts venue, saying it is now open six-and-a-half days a week.

There were 1,050 bookings at Millennium Place in 2014, with attendance up by 28 per cent for the annual Performance Series, including six sold-out shows. There were also 40 creative workshops with 960 attendees in 2014.

A new state-of-the-art theatre projector was also installed, thanks to a $28,268 grant from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

"We've developed many connections... it is looking more like the hub we dreamed of," Niedermayer said.

Karen Playfair, WAC secretary and treasurer, presented the financial statements for 2014. It was passed unanimously and Weir & Co was reconfirmed as the WAC's auditor for 2015.

There were four WAC board vacancies. One new member, Suzanne Johnston, was added, with Bob Barnett, Keith Bennett and Sue Adams also acclaimed.

Finally, long-time member and past WAC chair Joan Richoz was thanked for her years of service.

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