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Squamish artists frustrated by lack of festival support



The second annual LIVE at Squamish was a success by almost all accounts, but some Squamish artists felt they had been given the cold shoulder.

Stan Matwychuk, co-founder of Squamish's Homebase Studios, says festival organizers at Vancouver-based brand.LIVE passed on local representation in favour of artists from the city. As result, there was virtually no one representing Squamish at the festival.

"I thought that it was funny that they put on this event, they paid us to be there last year, and then here I am praising it in the newspaper and then they're like, 'The game has changed this year,'" Matwychuk says.

He had planned to build a performance painting stage so any artists in attendance at the festival could paint, but the plans fell through.

Matwychuk says he found out only one day before the festival that there would be no local representation. He sent out an email that day to festival organizers at brand.LIVE and various Squamish stakeholders, expressing his dismay over their decision to not include any Squamish artists.

In response, Gregory Hegger, brand.LIVE's director of communication and partnership, wrote that they were unable to fund more artist activation.

"The festival has a great deal of costs and I assure you we are far from turning a profit," said Hegger.

"Throughout the planning stages, we welcomed Stan to invite a sponsor to fund the area. I personally took the time to try and find one as well. Ultimately, nothing bit," he wrote.

Matwychuk says that he had sponsors lined up, including Lululemon.

"But at the end of the day we didn't need a sponsor to get in there and paint for free anyway," he says.

But even he had to admit that the festival's production value was impressive. It's a sentiment shared almost universally by those in attendance. Media reports have been overwhelmingly positive and festival executive producer Paul Runnals has only heard positive feedback from those in attendance. About 8,900 people showed up on Saturday and around 7,800 on Sunday. While the target was for 10,000 people per day Runnals says it was still a resounding success.

"Success for us is not just measured at the box office. It's measured on the experience and what the take-away was for everybody," he says.

He notes that local support in terms of ticket sales was "a little disappointing" relative to percentage of sales over all.

"Prior to the day of the show, the percentage of sales in the local area was quite low," he says.

The town itself saw an explosion of business throughout the weekend. Nearly all hotels and campgrounds were at capacity. Restaurants and cafes were jammed and the Farmer's Market on Saturday saw a surge in numbers that Elliot Moses, manager of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, connected to the festival.

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