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The debate over a "home-grown" arts and culture scene, as opposed to importing national and international artists, has not reached the intensity of the affordable housing debate, but it is becoming a topic for discussion as Whistler sets out for the next frontier: to become a cultural centre. As Whistler’s reputation as a resort has grown the number of nationally and internationally-recognized artists coming to town has increased. Dancer Karen Cane, pianist Jane Coop, numerous rock and blues artists, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and works by painters like Rembrandt and internationally recognized Russian artists have all appeared in Whistler. Whistler’s resident artists are not as well known, but the number of artists and artisans living in this town has exploded in recent years. A trip to Made In Whistler, the co-op gallery which features work by 75 locals, gives a sampling of the talent in this valley. In addition to the visual arts — and the art galleries displaying this work — there are choirs, musicians and the Whistler Players theatre group. The question which is starting to be asked now is what does Whistler spend its energy on, the development of local artists or attracting "recognized" artists? The elements of the issue are almost Whistler in a microcosm: people who live full time in the valley, weekend or part-time residents and people who only visit once in a while. Does the town grow with the visitor in mind, to suit the needs of the full-time resident or the part-time residents? Two years ago the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts hosted the first Whistler Symposium. One of the conclusions from that session was that Whistler should focus on education and culture as secondary industries. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The Whistler Centre has been overseeing the Young Artists Experience program for talented musicians for several years now. The youngsters study under Coop and other noted international musicians. To date no local young artists have participated, but the opportunity is there. Similarly, the Whistler Community Arts Council, a home-grown group if there ever was one, brings the Missoula Children’s Theatre to the Whistler Children’s Art Festival annually. The Parent Advisory Council also bring performers to the school in Whistler. As musician and Whistler Children’s Chorus leader Alison Hunter says, education is a key factor in developing the arts. Bringing talented people to Whistler to teach or perform furthers an awareness and aptitude for the arts. Vail has perhaps the ultimate example of importing artistic talent. The world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet makes its summer home at the Colorado resort. There are many reasons the arts have flourished in Vail, but the Bolshoi is the magnet, a symbol of high culture recognized around the world. The Bolshoi will probably never spawn as many ballet careers in Vail as the mountains will spawn ski careers, but the Ballet’s presence helps foster an appreciation of the arts, even among those who aren’t artists themselves. That sort of environment helps the "home-grown" artists and the local arts scene.

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