Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

BC Culture Days, a shoulder-season opportunity



BC Culture Days is six months away, but the province-wide festival of the arts and creative professions is already looking for participants.

Early registration has opened for the festival, which runs this year from Sept. 26 to 28. BC Culture Days aims to offer free, interactive activities that bring the public "behind-the-scenes" to discover the world of artists, historians, curators, designers, architects and other creative people.

B.C.'s event is part of a Canada-wide, three-day festival, which started nationally four years ago after being established in Quebec for the last 16 years.

"It's all down to people's interest. We've had events in Whistler in the past and Squamish, and I think Pemberton as well. We will see what the demand is and what works," says B.C. coordinator Nazanin Shoja.

Shoja plans to come to Whistler to run a workshop on how to get the public and community arts organizations involved, and brainstorm on how to best work together. The date and location for the meeting are to be determined, check Pique's arts news pages in the coming weeks.

Shoja adds: "It really is about participation, taking the public behind-the-scenes and giving them the opportunity to try the things they might not normally participate in. It's a doors-open event, where people can learn how to do something, take a tour, or participate in a discussion, even a collaborative art project."

She says it is very grassroots and volunteer driven.

In the past, the Whistler Arts Council and the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) have participated, along with other groups. The SLCC shrewdly tied its Spirit Within Festival to BC Cultural Days, since the end of September comes at the start of the quiet season in the resort.

BC Culture Days is definitely still in its growth stage, but it's getting to be a big baby. Last year, 1.6 million Canadians took part in 7,000 activities in 850 cities and towns.

And there were far-reaching, tangible results that improved the health of arts and cultural life around the country. The outcome of it, according to information collected from participants across Canada from 2010 to 2012, includes 52 per cent stating that Culture Days led to them attending more arts and cultural events.

As well, 33 per cent became fans of an artist or local cultural organization, 32 per cent said they visited more art galleries or craft studios, and 22 per cent took on more volunteering with an arts or cultural organization.

"Culture Days is really interesting that way. It's not about just watching a performance," says Shoja.

It seems this can only be good for the health of a nation, but what about the health of the people living in that nation?

A 2010 study by Hill Strategies Research, called The Arts and Individual Well-Being in Canada, found some interesting facts about the positive impact of cultural, arts and entertainment:

Art gallery visits are associated with better health and higher volunteerism, and 35.7 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and over (10 million people) visited galleries that year. Theatre, classical music, pop music and cultural festivals have the same findings, with audiences also indicating a strong satisfaction with life.

Theatre attracted 44.3 per cent of Canadians over 15 (12.4 million people) in 2010, classical music attracted 12.6 per cent (3.5 million), popular music — pop/rock, jazz, blues, folk, country — attracted 39.4 per cent of Canadians (11.1 million), and cultural or artistic festivals attracted 37.2 per cent of Canadians (10.4 million).

Impressive numbers, and they can be improved upon.

According to the same study, the positive health influences on the well being of individuals include helping those trapped in a daily routine, helping to manage stress, and connecting with neighbours and the community.

I am interested in anything that promotes the benefits of the arts and entertainment — the stuff we all enjoy when we go out to a pub, club, gallery, concert hall or theatre. It may be entertainment, but it sure isn't trivial; our cultural life, 1) employs people; 2) enriches lives, both the artists' and the audiences'; and 3) creates significant economic activity.

There is an opportunity here for arts and culture makers and lovers to find out more about BC Culture Days and make the Sea to Sky region a major location for this event. BC Culture Days, as part of what appears to be a national, grassroots movement, is a real opportunity to show that arts and culture belong to us all, can fill hotel rooms and restaurants and teach our children how to live well.

So, who is this open to? The established arts organizations and artists, to be sure, but private enterprise ought to see the value of making BC Cultural Days as big a success as possible. In Squamish, local businesses got behind that town's involvement in the Vancouver Biennale. In Whistler, companies have stepped up to support the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

The ball is in our court and we have time to make this into a shoulder-season opportunity. How about it?