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Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre names new executive director

Brady Smith has worked in hotel management as well as for non-profit Whistler Sport Legacies



The Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre has named its newest executive director, local hotel industry veteran and former Whistler Sports Legacies business development manager, Brady Smith.

A resort resident for 17 years, Smith has worked in a variety of hotel and property management roles, and served as VANOC's workforce accommodation manager ahead of the 2010 Olympic Games. Most recently, he worked for local not-for-profit Whistler Sports Legacies. He replaces former executive director Casey Vanden Heuvel, who left the museum in September.

"I'm just humbled and excited to be a part of such an incredible cultural facility, and I know that the team in place and the future team will bring a depth of knowledge to the culture of the community," said Smith.

Curt Walker, the SLCC's managing director, explained why Smith was the right candidate for the job: "(Smith) is a proven leader and there were a lot of boxes that he ticked for us," he said. "He's positive, he's passionate, he's inspiring and he's had tremendous success in everything's he's touched."

With only months to go before the opening of the Audain Art Museum, Smith spoke about his hopes to work hand-in-hand with the highly anticipated facility.

"This is the year of art for Whistler, and with the Audain museum coming in, I think it translates very well to working with the SLCC, and I know the contributions of the SLCC team and myself will ensure that the cultural journey continues," he said.

Walker expanded on this point, saying that he expects there will be numerous partnership opportunities with the Audain Art Museum, from marketing and packaging, to shared performances and rotating displays.

"We're not looking at them as a threat as opposed to (an institution) that builds more awareness of the cultural experience in Whistler to give one more point of distinction from other resorts when we're attracting a broader audience," he added.

Looking ahead, Walker said one of Smith's first orders of business would be to conduct an organizational review at the museum "to see where the opportunities are internally to build a better business model and to achieve some of the centre's objectives."

Achieving a sustainable business model has been a major goal for the museum since its doors first opened in 2008, and Walker said the not-for-profit has been able to stabilize its financial operations through a few different areas recently.

"The combination of event management, the food and beverage management and a better visitor experience has helped to move (the facility) more towards a sustainable business model," he explained.

Attracting tour operation business to the facility has been a key part of that process, Walker noted, as well as driving larger-scale events such as weddings to the SLCC. He also hopes to build on the museum's outreach efforts with cultural performances throughout the community, and said there are ample opportunities to grow the facility's aboriginal food and beverage operations.

The SLCC-produced Spirit Within Festival, a multi-day celebration of First Nations culture, will also be returning this September after going on hiatus in 2014, Walker said. Further details on the event are forthcoming.

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