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Feasting at the Arty Party

Lisa Richardson does the favourable math for Whistler's arts scene but wonders what happens after 2010?



By Lisa Richardson

Under the Olympic spotlight, government coffers are creaking open.

Whistler’s arts sector, accustomed to scrounging for spare change under the floormats, looking for what was left once the dogs and bikes and lattes were taken care of, is suddenly flush.

The RMOW spent over $1.6 million on cultural services in 2005. That’s the equivalent of 30 per cent of the annual operating budgets for Whistler’s cultural organizations, which according to a recent cultural scan conducted for the municipality is pegged in excess of $4.8 million.

Another $30 million has been committed within the last decade to the construction of cultural facilities, from Millennium Place to the art room at the high school, to current projects like the library and the Lil’wat/Squamish Cultural Centre.

On top of the $1.6 million, Whistler’s hotel tax fuels the Community Enrichment program, which allocated $200,000 in municipal grants to community groups in 2006, benefiting the Forum for Dialogue, the Children’s Chorus, Peak Performance Dance Force, the Whistler Theatre Project, and the Whistler Writers Group.

The RMOW’s 2006-2010 financial plan also shows allocations from the hotel tax fund to the Whistler Film Festival ($50,000), 2010 Celebrations ($50,000), Events Whistler ($62,000 in 2006, increasing to $162,000 annually), the Whistler Arts Council ($100,000) and events support ($140,000).

My dodgy calculator reckons on an $11.2 million injection of capital into Whistler’s arts sector this year from the municipality.

Add in provincial distributions from the Arts Now legacies fund, Bell Canada stepping up to sponsor the February Celebration 2010 event, VANOC’s Paralympics launch concert, the first pan-corridor forum of the Sea to Sky Cultural Alliance funded by member municipalities and the province, and the newly established $200,000 Arts Endowment Fund overseen by the Community Foundation of Whistler, and the calculator print-out reads Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

If the municipality’s efforts in putting together a Cultural Capital of Canada bid come to fruition, Heritage Canada will inject another $500,000 in funding in 2009.

If ever there was a time to find decent paying work in the arts, you’re looking at it.

Events Whistler hired Greg Albrecht in May to increase the quality of events programming throughout the resort. His mandate is to increase Whistler’s international profile by bringing in third party productions, and to assist ongoing events to be more efficient in their programming, human resources and sponsorship.