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February arts festival to be annual event

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Municipality approves up to $50,000

The inaugural Celebration 2010, a series of arts performances and exhibits held over two weeks in February, was such a success the Whistler Community Arts Council wants to make it an annual event.

And the municipality supports the idea, with Whistler council Monday committing up to $50,000 toward a similar festival next February.

The money, which will come from the municipality’s portion of the hotel tax, is accounted for in the municipal budget.

Celebration 2010 was part of a provincial initiative in support of the 2010 Olympic bid. Festivals and events took place in communities across the province in February, immediately prior to the arrival of the International Olympic Committee inspection team.

In Whistler, Celebration 2010 included music and dance performances by local and visiting artists, a showcase of adventure films from the Whistler Film Festival, scaled down versions of the Cornucopia and Weetama festivals presented by Tourism Whistler, an evening with Whistler’s past Olympians and Olympic exhibits by the Whistler Museum and Archives Society, readings by the Whistler Writers Group, as well as workshops, exhibits and performances by the Whistler Dance Academy, Whistler Photographic Society and Whistler Public Library.

John Hewson, chair of the Whistler Community Arts Council’s board of directors, asked council for support Monday.

"The arts community would like to see a commitment to this now, whether we get the Games or not," Hewson said.

If the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic bid is successful on July 2, it is expected senior levels of government will commit matching funds for the arts festival.

At a meeting convened by the arts council last month 45 representatives from Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton and First Nations communities met with representatives from the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation to discuss arts and cultural opportunities associated with the bid. Hewson told council that there was overwhelming support for building on the momentum of Celebration 2010 and establishing an annual showcase of local arts and culture for two weeks every February.

"This type of experience would not only add value to the ‘Whistler Experience’ enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, but it would also help build our capacity to participate more fully in the ($106 million) Olympiad Cultural Program, should the 2010 Bid be successful on July 2," Hewson wrote in a letter to council.

The pledge of $50,000 to a February arts festival continues the municipality’s financial commitment to the arts that began with the Whistler 2002: Charting a Course for the Future document that was adopted in 1999. One of the directions identified in that document was encouraging artistic and cultural programs.

Following a 2000 consultant’s report, which suggested the Whistler Community Arts Council become an umbrella organization for the arts in Whistler, the municipality has increased the arts council’s budget annually. In 2000 the municipality provided the arts council with a grant in aid of roughly $35,000. That jumped to $67,500 in 2001, $94,000 in 2002 and $95,500 this year.

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