A&E » Arts

Packed house for Whistler's final Cultural Plan meeting

Residents turned up to voice concerns and support for draft plan



Residents trickled into Millennium Place Tuesday night to voice their opinion on the draft Cultural Plan that will shape the next decade of arts, culture and heritage in Whistler.

The meeting was the final step in creating the plan before it's finalized and turned over to council. Between 60 and 70 people filled the room to ask Brian Johnston with Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants (PERC), the company writing the report, questions about the plan and offer ideas for changes or additions.

"In our view, this is a unique community that has invested very heavily in arts, culture and heritage," Johnston told the crowd. "Especially over the last 10 to 12 years. There is no community this size in the province that does it as well as you... But it's possible to do more."

He went on to say that the consultants concluded Whistler's arts development should continue at the same pace as in the last decade. That means no new taxes or radical changes, but rather steady growth. "A fine-tuning of a well developed system," he said.

The document contained 32 recommendations that ranged from short-term — such as changing bylaws that prohibit home-based business in residential areas — to medium-term, like building a community art gallery. Long-term recommendations include things like updating the Rainbow Theatre and creating a new museum.

Some artists had concerns with the plans, including Margaret Forbes, chair of the Whistler Pottery Club. Her organization has been seeking more space, but the report's recommendation to negotiate with Whistler Secondary School for more use of their pottery studio didn't sit well. "We're not saying give us a hand out," she said after the meeting. "We are a cultural group in the community. There are a lot of arts council spaces in the community and we'd like to have a little corner carved out for us so we can offer more community classes, children's classes. We're really limited... There are real limits to the high school drop-in."

Local artist, musician and driving force behind The Point Artist-Run Centre Stephen Vogler, who sat on the cultural plan steering committee, was pleased with the conversation that unfolded at the well-attended event. "I think (the plan) is pretty well rounded," he said. "What I liked in the introduction was how it says Whistler has done a great job putting on productions, high-level events and festivals, but the plan wants to try to fill that in from the bottom up with our local culture. That's what we've neglected somewhat. That's what we've heard from the artists tonight."

For Sarah Drewery, executive director of the Whistler Museum, the plan was filled with plenty of ideas for the future of heritage in Whistler. It included several recommendations involving the museum, such as plans for a new building, sorting through municipal archives and conducting a heritage inventory to label and preserve buildings.

"I'm really pleased about all the heritage recommendations," she said. "We obviously need a new museum building... I think they're really good recommendations. I just hope they all go ahead."

Residents have two weeks to submit any ideas for changes to the plan. To fill out the feedback survey visit artswhistler.com and follow the link.