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Last chance to weigh in on the future of culture in Whistler

WAC to hold an open house June 25 for the public to offer input into community cultural plan



The draft report of Whistler's Community Cultural Plan is finished, but there's one more step before papers are turned into action.

The Whistler Arts Council is urging all residents to come out to a final community open house June 25 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Millennium Place to weigh in on the report — which maps out the future of arts and culture in Whistler — before a final copy is presented to council.

It's vital that the plan reflects a range of voices, says Anne Popma, who has been working as a WAC consultant on the cultural plan.

"It has implications for a large number of people in the community, not just artists," she says. "If you look at what we're attempting to do, it has an impact on how we think about ourselves as a community. What is the role of arts, culture and heritage in our future? It has a potential impact not just on artists, but families and people who want to become artists and hotels looking to attract cultural tourists to the area. It has quite a far reaching effect, so we'd like to hear from as many people as possible."

The draft report is the culmination of several meetings to collect input from local artists and the wider community. In January, around 30 people participated in a brainstorming session to put forward ideas about arts infrastructure, changes to bylaws affecting arts vendors and offering more exposure for arts events. WAC also held an online survey to which nearly 400 people responded, as well as sessions to collect ideas from artists.

Vancouver consultants put the suggestions together into a report, which will be presented online and at the meeting before its finalized.

Popma declined to reveal too much of the report's contents, but said it covers three strategic areas: building on what we already have, expanding where possible and rallying for more community participation in the cultural sector.

"We've got quite a bit going for us, but now we're looking at how we can grow culture at the community level," she says. "We'd love Whistler to be known as a place that really develops the arts so artists would want to come here and spend time here... It has some pretty major implications. How are we going to spend our money?"

Putting together the cultural plan was one of the WAC's major accomplishments for 2012, as noted at the organization's annual general meeting May 22. Other highlights of the year include "developing the community programming at Millennium Place, both through new programs and also through enabling more community groups to use the building to present their own programs, productions and events," says WAC executive director Doti Niedermayer, by email from London, England. "Millennium Place had over 350 community bookings last year, 400 commercial bookings and over 50,000 people through the venue."

Celebrating its 30th anniversary last year, WAC is now looking to the future and the cultural plan that will help shape it, she adds.

"It's important for people to come to the open house because this is Whistler's cultural plan, not the consultants," she says. "It will outline how Whistler sees itself developing culturally over the next five to 10 years and what programs, policies and spaces are needed to ensure we have a vibrant and healthy community. Really, the plan is as good as the input provided to develop it. The open house is one more opportunity for people to come and see what the plan has recommended so far and make sure anything that is missing gets added."

When the final report is handed to council some changes could happen quickly, Popma says.

"Within a year we can see a few things — low hanging fruit — that are not expensive, but take political (action) and community-wide support (change). If we get a great turnout at this open house, when it's presented to council, we can tell them the level of support and that has impact."

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