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Bridge over cultural divide

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Artrageous energy gave birth to week-long Whistler Arts Experience

Artrageous was first held in 1991 in the Whistler Mountain Ski Cabin as an evening to showcase new and established local artisans. The brain child of Whistler artist, Christina Nick, the event quickly gained popularity and was the beginning of a bridge over the cultural gap in the community.

Artrageous was MIA for a few years, but returned in 1997 with greater support and momentum as part of the ‘The Town Party’, a carefree event thrown by locals for locals. Artrageous proved to be the perfect complement with over 800 people attending the show.

Fast forward a few years to 2000. The Whistler Community Arts Council wished to expand on the local excitement created by Artrageous, and hence a weekend art festival, Arts Experience, was born.

And in 2001, what started as a single evening of art and music has grown to include a week-long celebration of Whistler’s artistic community.

"The parents of the children participating in the Whistler Children’s Art Festival kept saying ‘we need something like this for ourselves’," says Arts Experience co-ordinator, Donna Savage. "So the workshops were developed last year. I hadn’t moved up (to Whistler) yet, but I was a participant. I did flower arranging, which was wonderful. This year though, we’ve made it very inclusive."

"We did partner last year with Tourism Whistler," continues Savage, "and we wanted to expand it with a view for the future. We want to make it a really big week, an arts experience that’s good for the locals and that will also encourage and bring visitors and increase the visibility and awareness of culture here in Whistler."

Part of that plan is Artists At Work, an opportunity for artisans and artists to show their works in progress throughout the streets of the village. Artists will set up a workspace for the afternoon where pedestrians can observe them in action. However, due to a bylaw, the artists are not permitted to actually sell their work on the street.

This program has drawn the criticism of at least one Whistler artist. In a letter to the editor published in the May 18, 2001 edition of Pique , Janet Young uses the word "exploitation" to describe Artists At Work.

"Why not ask our lawyers, doctors, dentists and architects to show the public how they create? Would this population of professionals give away their expertise for free, on the street?" writes Young. Since Young’s letter, Lotus Art Supplies has offered to act as headquarters for participants, taking care of the money, should someone want to purchase a piece of art from one of the street demonstrations. In a follow up conversation, Young applauds the local shop owners for making the effort, but contends the overall concept of Artists At Work still misses the mark.

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