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House hunting for the arts

Whistler Arts Council searches for new digs as work begins on Lot 1/9 site

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Along with all of the other newcomers to town combing the classifieds each and every Thursday, the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) is stepping into the fray, searching for a new office for its staff members to call home.

Doti Niedermayer, the executive director of WAC, said they’re uncertain about where they’ll end up, but setting up shop in MY Millennium Place is a distinct possibility.

“I think on the one hand we’ve been looking at Millennium Place and just trying to find a space that works for us in there, given the size of our staff and how we work,” she explained. She added that the space that is available is very broken up and not really conducive to the type of open-office environment they are used to.

“So there’s like one little boardroom here, and another boardroom there, and a meeting room here and a room there,” she said. “And we all work kind of in an open concept.”

WAC’s offices have been in a number of places throughout the village — they used to have an office in Millennium Place, and in more recent years, have been housed in a portable building that has seen several occupants on several sites.

The building with the red roof started out in a lumber yard in Function Junction. It was later donated to the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts, and re-located to the site of the new library. Later it became the office of the Whistler Housing Authority, before the WHA moved to the Beaver Flats building in Whistler Creek. Then the arts council became tenants.

For the past two years, the arts council has been in the building on Lot 1/9.

But the number of staff at the arts council has increased significantly over the past year or so — they now boast five full-time staff members, plus contractors who sometimes need to work out of their offices.

While the current building isn’t the ideal size, Niedermayer said they could live with it for the next year or two, pointing out that she isn’t sure whether WAC staff will increase or decrease after the Olympics.

“We’re getting squeezed, but we’re making it work,” she said.

Niedermayer said they definitely need to be out of the space within the next month and a half, but that aside from the size of the current space, their main issue is dealing with the noise from the construction that has started on Lot 1/9. Trees began to fall on Wednesday, May 28, and it’s been pretty difficult to work.

“We’ve got to go,” she said adding that the entire building was shaking as she spoke. “It’s pretty disruptive… it’s pretty intense over here.”

Now, WAC is in the market for a permanent or temporary home that’s at least as large as their current 800 square foot office. They’re looking into renting space within the village, and have identified some commercial spaces they are interested in. But it comes down to dollars and cents.

“People are hesitant to kind of give away space in the central location of the village,” she said, adding that it’s important to maintain a presence in the centre of town.

“The visibility of the arts council has really dramatically increased since we’ve been in our own building in the centre of town, and our accessibility by artists to drop by and drop off stuff, all of those things are really important,” she said.

Niedermayer said they even saw a big difference when they moved from their old site to Lot 1/9.

“We’re really, really trying to stay in the centre of town,” she said.

Failing finding new digs, WAC may simply need to find new land to put their current building on.

“We’re on the move. That’s why I keep saying, ‘keep that building on wheels, and we can be ski in, ski out in the winter, and at Lost Lake in the summer!” Niedermayer said with a laugh.

Whether they end up in a space in Millennium Place, or rent commercial space within the village, Niedermayer explained that they would, in turn, rent out their current building to help recoup some of their rental costs.

“That would help defray any sort of expenses that we would have, except if it was really expensive. So for example, this building is not going to get the commercial rental that something really expensive in the centre of town would be, because it won’t be in the centre of town,” she said.

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