Back in January, Whistler’s arts community received a hefty
chunk of change, and a pretty prestigious designation; we were named one of
Canada’s Cultural Capitals, an honour which comes along with $500,000 in
funding to support various arts, culture and heritage projects within the
John McCormick is a consultant for the Resort Municipality of
Whistler, the central organization that has worked on developing Whistler’s
plan for spending that money.
“I think we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to do this;
we’re thrilled to be a part of that… Cultural Capitals of Canada family,”
That plan is entitled, “Celebration 2020: a natural step
towards cultural sustainability,” and it contains a number of initiatives that
are designed to carry forward after the 2010 Olympics.
“This is seed money we’re getting — this is not core
money, so the intent is not that, ‘oh, we’ve got this money and that will pay
for everything,’” McCormick explained. “The intent is that we get this funding
and it helps us either increase our funding through the year for the programs
that are identified, and it also helps us move forward in 2010 and beyond.”
While a bit of the programming began in April, it isn’t until
2009 that the majority of the funding will be unleashed onto Whistler’s arts
and cultural sector.
The RMOW and the local partnering arts agencies were waiting
for final approval on their spending plans, and it looks like they’ve finally
received the go-ahead.
Some of the funding has already gone into boosting existing
projects, like the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, and doing some
background research and testing for brand-new arts offerings, like the
Crankworx Art in Technology Project.
“It’s a really interesting and groundbreaking project that uses
the mountain as a canvas and the bikers as the paintbrush, if you will, with
GPS as the connecting point, and then artists who come out of the major
animations and effects studios in the States… create sort of a wild, almost
psychedelic artistic film, of sorts,” McCormick explained.
Funds will also go towards things like artists’ agreements and
the development of the Whistler Arts, Culture and Heritage (WATCH) plan, a
comprehensive cultural plan to help Whistler reach their 2020 objectives in an
organized manner. The WATCH plan will give local stakeholders an idea of where
the arts, culture and heritage sector is heading.
“That’s important, because it helps everyone work towards the
same objectives,” McCormick added.
Another key part of the plan is the reinvigoration of the
Whistler Theatre Project, which has been defunct for a few years now, due to
lack of funding.
“It won’t be the same, it won’t be as large — what they
did was a $400,000 project. So we’re not doing that this year,” he said.
Rather, the project will be scaled down significantly,
producing “MountainHeart” a new Canadian theatrical work that will “explore the
magic of Whistler, its history and array of great explorers and community
builders.” The new production will be presented in the summer of 2009 with a
cast of local youth and emerging artists, First Nations and internationally
The plan also includes programming for a First Nations youth
paddle carving program at the new Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre, tying the
new facility into the arts, culture and heritage sector.
“It’s great that we got the funding in anticipation of the
Games, because it helps us to test out the way things are going to operate in
2010,” McCormick said. “It also is really helping to highlight the role that
arts and culture can play in this community — the connection to cultural
tourism, the opportunity to build capacity locally. Not only performance
capacity, potentially, but also technical capacity.”
The comprehensive plan is the result of a lot of time, effort
and extensive planning by not only the RMOW, but a myriad of other groups, like
WAC, WFFS, and MY Millennium Place.
“We did our best. What we couldn’t do is have a room of a
hundred people — that wasn’t workable. What we did do, though, was canvas
opinions,” he explained.
A website outlining Whistler’s Cultural Capital programming is currently under development, and should be up and running in a few weeks, and signage will be put up along Highway 99, alerting visitors to the new designation.