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Arts Whistler reviews a year of change

The resort's main arts body lists the achievements for 2016 at annual general meeting

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Last year saw enormous changes for Arts Whistler (AW), including a new name, website and branding approach, a new executive director, and increased funding from the federal government, so it is not surprising that the 2016 annual general meeting (AGM) for the organization was full of news.

The AGM, which took place at the Maury Young Arts Centre on May 24, presented the 2016 annual report for the organization, the financial statement for the year, and saw new board members and a treasurer voted in.

Presentations were made by executive director Maureen Douglas, chair of AW's board of directors Heather Paul, and the AW board treasurer April Andiel.

Douglas explained that AW is in the middle of a five-year strategic plan, with four key priorities: supporting the development and creative expression of Whistler's artists and groups; fostering rich and diverse offerings; growing arts contribution to the resort economy; and strengthening organizational capacity.

She added that strides had been made in these areas in 2016.

"We were able to take on (the priorities) in a way that is stronger than we've ever been able to achieve before, the role as the collaborative leader for the arts, culture and heritage sector," Douglas said.

"That was largely thanks to a (federal) grant we got from Canadian Heritage. We're still working our way through that."

The grant, $489,500, was the largest ever received by Arts Whistler and its strategic partners the Audain Art Museum, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Tourism Whistler. It represented a boost of 25 to 30 per cent to AW's budget.

The grant's purpose was to develop cultural pathways at the resort, and the means to market them.

It has been extended to September 2017.

Annual report

There were many another notable mentions for members, in terms of AW's other operations.

The Maury Young Arts Centre (MYAC) hosted more than 700 arts, culture and heritage events in 2016, 52 per cent of the venue's total use.

Arts Whistler Live! saw 1,700 people at 10 performances over 2016; thanks to support from the BC Touring Council's "Warming up the Act" grant, 16 local performers were able to showcase their talents as well, an increase from five local artists the previous year.

Sales in the MYAC gift shop increased by 62 per cent over 2015, with $18,032 made selling works by artisans and artists, compared with $12,388 in 2015. Twenty to 30 artists are featured in the gift shop at any one time.

In The Gallery, there were nine exhibitions showcasing 90 emerging and professional artists, with $6,450 in sales; 97 per cent of those showing were local artists.

In terms of the summer workshop programs, Art on the Lake saw 73 per cent of its spaces filled, up one per cent from the previous year.

ArtWalk, the largest art exhibit in Whistler and now in its 13th year, moved to the fall and ran for three months, from September to the end of November. Fifty local artists in 33 businesses took part.

Crucial to the success of AW, volunteer numbers increased, from 138 in 2015 to 162 in 2016.

In terms of social media marketing AW, the annual report noted that growth in the use of the hashtag #artswhistler grew by a whopping 11,086 per cent, while Facebook views grew by 1,241 per cent.

One number showed a drop. The 2016 executive summary showed that membership had dropped compared to the year before, from 513 members in 2015 to 423 members last year.

In an email after the AGM, Douglas said:

"The drop is primarily due to the fact that we have not sent out renewal notices while we've been in the process of revamping the membership offer and benefits. 

"We wanted to put our efforts into making the membership benefits stronger before promoting membership renewal and/or new memberships. We also wanted to get the special resolution around membership quorum and AGM requirements confirmed before actively growing the membership." 

Getting organized

AW created a new management structure in 2016, spreading its operations over four departments, with administration run by Susan Holden, MYAC run by Anna Solich, programming run by Andrea Mueller, and marketing run by Kim Maitland.

There had also been professional development workshops offered to members and local artists for the first time.

Members said in a survey their top three valued benefits for AW membership were information on arts and culture (83 per cent), discounts (56 per cent) and social connections (41 per cent).

In a presentation following the AGM, it was announced that AW membership rates are increasing for the first time in years, with individual rates going up from $25 to $30, and group rates from $50 to $55.

AW's board passed the increase in April.

Membership benefits include invitations to members-only social events; early bird registration at Arts Whistler Live! shows and workshops; member drink specials; listing in the online artist gallery on artswhistler.com; eligibility to sell artisan pieces at the Maury Young Arts Centre; and access to a new exclusive membership portal online.

There are also discounts for Arts Whistler members, including discounts at the Audain Art Museum, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre gift shop, Art Junction, Garibaldi Graphics, Whistler Printing, Toad Hall Studios, Cutting Edge, Framagraphic, Blenz Coffee, and Delish Café.

The money

AW's revenue was broken down as follows: 54 per cent came from the RMOW's Fee for Service and Festivals, Events & Animation programs; 20 per cent came from grants, particularly the Heritage Canada grant; 13 per cent came from earned revenue; nine per cent from donations and sponsors, including the Pop-Up Studio at the Westin Resort Whistler; and four per cent came from facility-earned revenue.

Outgoings broke down as: 37 per cent in wages and benefits; 19 per cent for consulting and contractors; 15 per cent for artist fees; nine per cent for advertising and promotions; eight per cent production expenses; seven per cent building operations and administration; and five per cent facility rentals.

The annual report listed 36 in-kind donors and 35 local business sponsors.

The financial statement for AW broke down total liabilities for 2016 at $308,514 and net assets at $539,929.

Total revenue came to $2,168,364 in 2016, compared with $1,800,874 in 2015.

Direct expenses came to $1,315,288 in 2016, compared to $696,170 in 2015 — this includes tripling advertising and promotion expenditure to $189,930 in 2016, compared to $64,198 in 2015.

Accountancy firm Weir and Company were reappointed as auditors to AW.

At the AGM, it was announced that Dave Wilcox would replace Andiel as AW's treasurer.

Along with Andiel, two other members of AW's board of directors left after completing their terms, Bob Barnett and Michele Comeau.

They were replaced by Brianna Beacom of the Audain Art Museum and Kimberly Stanger of the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

Finally, tribute was paid to recently departed community cultural officer Anne Popma, who took on the role in June 2014.

Popma's job was folded into the recently created role at the RMOW of manager of cultural planning and development. John Rae was appointed to the position in January.

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