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Capital gains for the arts

Will the Cultural Capital of Canada funding boost sustain the arts beyond 2009?

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Art Walk threw a block party in Function Junction; the Children's Art Festival brought renowned entertainers to perform at Creekside; and mountain bike festival Crankworx will showcase a technology-art display in the village next week.

In the nearly 12 months since the federal government dubbed Whistler one of Canada's 2009 Cultural Capitals, the program's effects have been seen in many corners of the resort municipality.

But while community members and village guests delight in Whistler's strengthened arts, culture and heritage sector, the improvements are somewhat temporary.

The Cultural Capital designation came with $500,000 from the federal government and a requirement for the municipality to kick in $167,000. On top of that, the private sector and other government sources swelled the budget to $820,000.

All that money must be spent in 2009.

Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, said this week the Cultural Capital funding has provided an undeniable boost to the arts sector but she is concerned about what will happen next year.

"I am a little bit concerned about the funding for next year, but I think that there have been inroads made that will be a legacy that will continue forward and that will ensure those programs remain as big as they were this year," said Niedermayer.

"For example, this year with the help from the Cultural Capital of Canada, we launched open studios in Function Junction with block parties, and those were extremely successful. I think next year, we would maintain that connection to the artists' studios in Function Junction."

Niedermayer explained that of the 12 new and expanded programs funded through Cultural Capital, some are more likely than others to continue beyond 2009.

"I think a lot of them are going to be around. The museum received funding to expand museum tourist visits and that will be maintained for years to come," said Niedermayer.

On the other hand, she said some programs are one-off, like the script-writing project being undertaken by G. D. Maxwell, Leslie Anthony, Grant Stoddard and Lisa Richardson.

"It is great to have the opportunity to create that project," said Niedermayer. "But I don't think we'll have an annual script-writing program."

The Children's Arts Festival, Whistler's longest running festival, is also susceptible to losing some steam next year because this year there was additional money available for professional artists and infrastructure like tenting. But Niedermayer added the festival has been embedded in the community for 26 years, which will help keep it going.

"For the arts council, we were really clear that we wanted to expand our programs rather than create new ones which then are immediately susceptible to never happening again. I think if you put money into expanding programs, you create a stronger foundation," she said.

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