A couple of weeks ago the Whistler Arts Council held the second annual Business and the Arts Award luncheon, at the Four Season Resort Whistler. Before presenting the award, which recognizes the invaluable commitment businesses have made to the arts, Whistler Arts Council chair John Hewson asked a question: "Where is the centre of the arts in Canada?" After a well-measured pause, he answered, "Whistler."
This was a "two plus two equals five" answer; a "the world is flat" answer.
But it was also a brave, optimistic and idyllic submission. The scope and role of the arts in Whistler has gained critical momentum over the last five years, thanks to the drive and vision of certain key players. Whistler, both as a resort destination and a community, is finally recognizing that the arts are vital for long term success.
Lets have a look at where we have come from, where we are and where we might go.
Whistler is not a centre for the arts. People are drawn here for the sports and the fun and the mountains. The natural beauty has shut everyone up for years awed by it, unless they were doing their art on their own; secluded, intimate, under the radar. But in the last five years, the times, they have been a-changin.
"When I first arrived (1972) there were only 300 full time residents. The arts consisted of dances at the old Mount Whistler Lodge, screenings of films at the Christiana Inn and later at the Keg (when it was in Adventures West)."
Joan Richoz, Whistler Arts Council board member since its inception in 1982.
"(Arts in Whistler was a) barren wasteland. When I moved to Whistler youd be hard pressed to find a Laundromat, let alone an arts scene
I can remember living here in the 80s and meeting for the first time someone who had moved to Whistler without an interest in skiing or riding. I thought to myself, thats seriously twisted what kind of freak would move here if they dont ski? In hindsight, it was an early sign of the town shifting, one of the first steps toward being a community that was not solely focused on sports."
Doug Perry, founder of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival
"Back then (1988), it was all about skiing for me. The only artistic things I'd really get stoked about were the annual Greg Stump ski movie premieres, the best of Banff Film Fest (later on) and travel slide shows there wasn't much of a local film scene back then. Just Stumpy and Ace, Christian Begin and Peter Chrzanowski as I grew up and the skiing stoke wore off, the arts started to mean a bit more to me I think the artists and designers at Toad Hall are responsible for helping to keep the art scene alive and well (in the late 80s and early 90s) Toad Hall was pumping out marketable, creative and visually stunning artwork and it was getting noticed. "