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The rise of Squamish culture

As a younger demographic moves into town, a sea change in arts and culture is taking place

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The Squamish Arts Council has existed in various forms since the 1940s and has been a registered as a society for about 40 years. Despite its industrial heritage, Squamish had a rich artistic heritage, albeit a very self-contained one. Egyed says that communities in isolation had to rely on themselves for entertainment and the scene in Squamish was much richer before the highway into town was built in the early 1960s. Once access to the city improved, Egyed says the wealth of artistic experience waned. But it survived. Artists remained. Theatre troupes came and went. Festivals did too. The arts were ready to grow when the time was right.

"Since cultural tourism has been recognized as an economic generator, there's (been) a lot more attention paid to arts and culture for a variety of reasons," she says. "There's more funding for it, for a variety of reasons. Other people that aren't involved in the sector understand the benefits of supporting it. So there's a lot more funding for the arts than there ever was."

The district gave $15,000 to the SAC this year alone, with another $5,000 coming from Arts BC. The challenge now is to build a community where artists of all varieties can create on full-time basis. To do this, it needs to foster a culture of art buyers. To do that, it will take a community of artists who understand the international arts scene and know what the cultural tourist is looking for. Right now, it has the potential. Squamish is on the road to satisfying what would qualify them to be an international destination but Egyed says it needs more venues, more time spent on creating and, as always, more money. Government funding goes a long way in supporting the venues but an arts scene, like any business, needs to be self-sustaining.

"The danger is assuming that it's an easy thing to do, as far as becoming an arts destination," Egyed says. "I think what we don't want is people that don't understand that, and are not participating at that level, to become the decision makers."

Squamish needs more reasons for people to visit. The music festivals are a good start but added together they make up only one week of the 52 that make up the year. Whistler has the mountains and everything that has happened in town has been a result of the ski hills opening in 1968. Squamish needs its own version of Blackcomb Mountain and the answer could be in the arts.

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