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Imagine a world without art

Celebrating 30 years of Whistler Arts Council doing the opposite



Imagine a world without art. Really.

Stop and think: what would life be like with no music; no songs or stories; no poetry, no paintings. No graffiti, no tattoos, no puppets or plays. No photography or symphonies; no anime or animation. No fairy houses in your garden. No cool art on your snowboard or skateboard.

Even this newsmagazine combines many arts — literary, visual, graphic, digital — so it wouldn't be here either. At least not in the form it's in.

But this is too depressing! So grab a glass, pour your best tipple and toast the Whistler Arts Council as it celebrates 30 years of doing just the opposite — growing, sponsoring, developing, enhancing and generally adding arts and culture in their myriad forms deep into the heart of Whistler.

It was a dark and stormy night... Honestly, it was! A grim January night, 1982, and thanks to a pineapple express, rain — not snow — was pelting the windows of the Whistler Question office in Village Square.

I'd come to Whistler as a reporter for the Question and ended up buying the newspaper. Part of that meant sitting at my desk piddling away at something or other hours after everyone else had gone home. It struck me that night that no matter how special Whistler was, I so missed the arts that had always been part of my life.

It also struck me that an arts council — a good, inspired one that embraced the community and had the community embrace it — would be just what the doctor ordered for injecting arts and culture into this amazing place called Whistler. A good arts council could help amuse, entertain, challenge; give artists a place and a voice, and maybe even a little income. It could also give visitors pleasure and enjoyment, and help counter the empty hotel rooms, the empty bar stools that make running a business a challenge in any resort town where vagaries like the weather can make or break dreams.

Not that there were no signs of art. There were, albeit fleeting ones. After all, hippie jocks — the "hippie" part threading from the hipsters and beats, the beats from the bohemians, and on through the epochs of modernism — were the rightful colonizers of contemporary, post-Rainbow Lodge Whistler, channeling the spiritualism and "otherness" inherent in mountain places.

In the 1960s and '70s, ski bum/artists would be working away in their little cabins and squats painting, potting, carving, writing — doing their own thing. Jenny and Nello Busdon would put together a drama group that did live theatre. Little restaurants would display local art, maybe even Whistler's first nude study, Chris Speedie's infamous Toad Hall photo featuring a row of 20-something skiers — some upside down, all cheerfully naked.

Celebrating 30 years of Whistler Arts Council doing the opposite.