Whistler’s cultural groups are certainly receiving a lot of support in the years leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, but members of local arts organizations are trying to ensure that the artistic community continues to flourish even after the big event is over.
There are a few initiatives, like this summer’s Sea to Sky Economic Impact Study, that are already in the works to help prepare the community for post-2010, and the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) has just received word that they can move ahead with plans to review their own working relationship with MY Millennium Place — thanks to $10,000 in funding from the Catalyst program of 2010 Legacies Now.
Barb McLean is the arts program manager for 2010 Legacies Now.
She explains that the Catalyst program is supposed to help build organizational capacity for arts and cultural organizations across the province. This year 26 organizations from 11 communities throughout B.C. will receive a total of $175,000 to help build artistic and administrative capacities. An advisory panel of experts from the field — in this case, arts managers and practitioners from various sectors and disciplines — selected the successful recipients.
“(The panel) recognized that there was lots of change and lots of development happening in Whistler,” said McLean, “and in order to not only move in the short term, but to continue on once we get over the big hump — as we all know is coming — that what is going to sustain (Whistler arts groups) into the future is to ensure that the services that they provide… are still going to be there.”
WAC will receive $10,000 to help pay for an independent consultant to conduct a functional review of services, examining how the two organizations can work on a shared site to streamline operations. Since the $10,000 is a matching contribution the additional $10,000 will come from WAC, MY Millennium Place and Whistler’s Cultural Capital funding.
Doti Niedermayer, executive director of WAC, said the concept of a functional review has been around for quite a while now.
“Both organizations have been talking about doing a functional review for quite some time, and actually the Whistler 2020 Arts, Culture and Heritage Task Force talked about it probably up to two years ago,” Niedermayer said.
First and foremost, the consultant will examine the best use of MY Millennium Place.
“Because we’ve talked about it as a cultural hub – is it a cultural hub? Should it be a cultural hub?” asked Neidermayer.
Secondly, it will look at the two organizations — WAC and MY Millennium Place — to see how they can better share resources so both are run more efficiently. And finally, the review will suggest how to strengthen the cultural section.
But the amalgamation of the two organizations is not an issue on the table, though that could be one of the recommendations that come out of the review. Instead, the consultant will simply be looking at how WAC and MY Millennium Place can work together on a more functional basis.
Niedermayer pointed out that it was important to ensure that the selected consultant was both informed and objective, so they’re able to offer a fresh perspective on some important issues.
“We all are attached to our organizations, and we’re attached to our viewpoints and our opinions — not that that’s a bad thing, because we’re all very passionate — but I think in this case we all agreed that we absolutely wanted someone who was experienced… but also didn’t have a vested interest in the outcome, either way,” she explained. “This consultant has worked in our community before, so it has familiarity with how the community works and our organizations, but is definitely hands-off.”
Niedermayer is confident that the consultant’s findings will be put to good use, and not simply shelved, pointing out that they will be working with Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants (PERC), an organization that has previous experience working in Whistler’s art community in conducting the 2001 Whistler Arts Report. She adds that quite a few of the recommendations that were made in that report became a reality.
“Sometimes it takes a little while; some of these goals are lofty, and they take funding and they take time. But if we look back at that arts plan, with recommendations from 2001, there are several that have been implemented, so it wasn’t just put on a shelf and ignored, it actually came to be,” she said, “It is a gradual process.”
After the review is completed at the end of the year, a steering committee will meet with the consultant to discuss the findings and recommendations, and hopefully decide on a few goals to work towards.