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Arts Whistler plans pilot project for home-based studios

Participating artists will have municipal permit fees paid in exchange for providing business metrics



Arts Whistler (AW) is making roughly $4,000 available from its recent $489,500 federal Heritage Canada grant for a pilot project to explore the success of home-based artists' studios.

AW's acting executive director Maureen Douglas said the money would be used to offset the costs for a limited number of artists of the Temporary Use Permit (TUP) being brought in to license home-based art studios by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).

In return, artists participating in the pilot project would provide statistics or metrics annually to measure the business activity of their studios.

"Artist studios will be a huge piece in developing the Whistler Valley cultural itinerary," Douglas said, adding that the grant also covers the costs of marketing this itinerary.

"We've also proposed that Arts Whistler is going to assist (in the process) by developing a peer jury to basically assess that the art is authentically created by that artist within the studio and not fabricated far away."

As currently planned, the TUP costs $750 for three years per home-based studio, with a $250 renewal fee for the subsequent three years.

Participating artists would have two years of fees covered, Douglas said.

"It's not proposed in the sense that we will commit to that. It was welcomed. It certainly minimizes risk, the artists would still be required to pay for their ($165) business license," she said.

Douglas met Whistler artists to discuss their home-based studios concerns at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Tuesday, May 31.

Six of the estimated 60 to 80 artists with home studios in the Whistler area came to the meeting.

"It was a good meeting, for sure. Quite positive," Douglas said.

"The session was to take a review of where the current TUP situation is and what we are able to do as Arts Whistler. We came to the artists that that we knew (experienced) some challenges with this process... they're concerned about the money and whatnot.

"We want to get this to a place where we can have a successful pilot project. The only way we will know if artist studios are going to work is to test them.

"The arts council is developing (a plan) of what it would look like if you came through us."

Municipal staff is currently assessing the proposal, Douglas said.

Artists Vincent and Cheryl Massey have run their respective pottery and weaving studios at home for years. They have been vocal critics of the TUP costs, but attended the AW meeting.

"We're going to join up (with the pilot project)," Vincent said.

"We decided to give them a chance to try this out, and if it is a success from the RMOW's part, if they get enough people signing up... they'll hopefully think of us artists as a cultural amenity that needs nurturing and not some sort of cash cow that can bring back a return to them."

The Masseys were initially reluctant to take part because they did not like the idea of taking federal money to pay for a municipal permit, but paid tribute to community cultural officer Anne Popma's work on this issue and said they changed their minds because of her efforts.

In an emailed statement, the RMOW said: "The (RMOW) is supportive of Arts Whistler's proposed plan to make the Working Studios temporary use permits a success and provide funding and assistance to prospective applicants.

"The municipality will continue work with Arts Whistler to refine and streamline the application and permit process to encourage a high level of uptake for this pilot project."