Opinion » Alta States

Chili Thom – Creative mind in outgoing body



"A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world".

– Philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704)

Culture. It's a loaded term at Whistler. And it's creating all sorts of disconnects. Does "culture" really mean bringing in big-name musical acts, high-priced media events and Hollywood-like parties — as some of our decision-makers insist? Or does culture simply mean (as the dictionary suggests) "the beliefs, customs, practices and social behavior of a particular people?"

For me, it's a simple equation. The former is "entertainment" — and most of what we get at Whistler has absolutely no cultural connection to this place. Conversely, little of Whistler's true "culture" (as posed in the latter definition) gets sufficiently promoted. It's almost like the powers-that-be here are so focused on making "big things" happen that they can't see the elephant in the room!

Whistler culture is thriving! It's unique and magical and naughty and irreverent. And it continues to thrive (despite — and not because of — the system that's meant to support it). Over the years, this community has attracted and nurtured a slough of talented artists. Painters, musicians, writers, filmmakers, photographers, actors; people with names like Craig and Milner and Vogler and Massey and Morrison. And the list goes on.

But they didn't come here to practice their art. At least that wasn't their primary purpose. They came here to live in the mountains — which, in turn, became reflected in the art that they were inspired to create. And that's Whistler's edge. That's the power of this place.

So why are we so insecure about Whistler's position in the world that we still believe success can only come if we promote big-name entertainment here? Why do we continue to confuse entertainment for culture?

But you don't have to agree with me. I'm just posing the question: Do we really know the difference? I'm also hoping our new council will make this question a public issue. Why? Because I believe we've been barking up the wrong culture-tree since we were seduced by the Olympic hype-train. And it's understandable. Given the global spotlight on Whistler during the last decade, some of us started believing our own press.

Alas the spotlight's been turned off. And now we need to take a long, deep draft of reality. Whistler is a town of 10,000 whose principal raison-d'ètre (until someone can show me different) is hosting people who love mountain-play. Can we be more than that? Of course we can. We can provide a non-urban refuge to the stressed-out multitudes desperate for something different than the 9-5 existential Hell that they suffer through every day of their lives.

Add a comment