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Arts News Jazz festival faces cancellation



The fate of Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler (JOMAW) is currently in limbo.

Festival organizer Arnold Schwisberg, who is still waiting on a $150,000 Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) contribution from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), has been unable to secure Kool & the Gang, who were slated to play a free show as part of the festival.

Schwisberg is concerned that the longer the RMOW takes to commit the greater the risk to Schwisberg that the festival will lose other acts.

"We can't be (as I said) treading water, and the prospect of being 'on hold' another week only adds to the chance the event is jeopardized," Schwisberg writes in an email to RMOW CAO Mike Furey and forwarded to Pique.

Schwisberg had asked for the RMI contribution by April 22 to offset the festival's $500,000 deficit.

Without it, he says, the festival will not return.

The April 22 deadline was set to accommodate artist booking agents and to secure the line-up for the festival.

An RMOW spokesperson says that while the municipality "cannot discuss the details of any of the individual event proposals," the Festival, Events and Animation (FE&A) oversight committee is currently reviewing JOMAW's proposal, along with all those of all third party event organizers, and the plan is to have all proposals reviewed by early May.

Schwisberg has made several pleas to municipal staff, including Furey and the manager of resort experience Jan Jansen, stating that an early-to-mid May commitment will come too late and he'll, "have to declare very soon that there will not be another JOMAW."

Both Jansen and Furey have acknowledged the urgency of Schwisberg's proposal.

Last year, artist contracts for JOMAW's inaugural event — held over the Labour Day weekend — were in place by the time Schwisberg announced the festival on April 4.

He describes working with the municipality at that time as "very positive," and says relations remained that way until late June, when Schwisberg discovered that council had approved the free Whistler Presents concert series.

As Pique reported last week, Schwisberg attributes JOMAW's poor ticket sales to a) the denial of a special occasion liquor license — which would have allowed attendees to drink alcohol throughout the festival grounds and affected the festival's bottom line, b) the competition of the RMOW's free Whistler Presents concert series and c) a series of RMOW and Tourism Whistler print advertisements packaging the JOMAW as part of the RMOW's free-concert series.

The RMOW's website states that the municipality encourages third-party events in town. It reads:

"Producers please note:

"The RMOW also welcomes third-party producers and works to ensure that production is as smooth as possible. On this website, producers will find guidelines and general information on How to put an Event on in Whistler. The Whistler Events Working Committee meets every month to discuss existing annual events and discuss applications for new events.

"Whistler Olympic Plaza, let the future begin."

So far, Schwisberg says his experience has been anything but "smooth."

"It is not my experience that RMOW either 'welcomes,' nor 'works' to achieve a result as 'smooth as possible,'" Schwisberg writes in an email to Pique. "On the contrary."

But, despite the past, he adds, "Getting beyond the past, I remain hopeful that everyone in Whistler and at municipal hall will agree that what JOMAW is trying to achieve is best done together, for the benefit of the community on a long-term basis, and that we can all work hand-in-hand towards that end."

The RMOW will announce details of 2012's FE&A program, along with details of the Whistler Presents series, at a council meeting on Tuesday, May 1.

In the coming weeks, Pique will explore the RMOW's involvement as an events organizer and its relationships with other third-party event organizers in town.

In the meantime, see page 17 for a related story.