There have long been murmurs and whisperings about throngs of performers who will crowd Village Stroll during the Olympics, but it was unclear who would be organizing these entertainers and who, exactly, would be footing the bill.
Now, a group of local professionals dubbed Whistler Live! has been assembled to coordinate entertainment at up to six live sites throughout the village, acting as lead agency in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council, VANOC and the Government of Canada.
John Rae, manager of strategic alliances for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, will be the executive producer of the new Whistler Live! team leading up to and during the Games. As part of that role, he'll be supervising a senior management team that includes Scott McPhee and Kristen Robinson of Whistler as technical director and festival director, respectively, and Brent Williston of Squamish as business development manager.
"It's not just people from within the community, but it's actually people who have a long history of producing festivals and events in Whistler. There are significant challenges, because it's not the same as producing something in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre!" Rae said.
Modeled on similar Olympic live sites in Sydney, Salt Lake City/Park City and Torino, Whistler Live! (formerly known as Celebration Sites) will feature a network of integrated live sites situated along Village Stroll that will feature free daily and nightly programming, which includes live performances, interactive events, and exhibitions, throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Picture, in Village Square, a similar stage setup (to those during the Olympic torch unveiling), probably a few more screens not just there, but throughout the entire village," Rae explained. "And then picture something akin to a very energized fire and ice show each evening at Skier's Plaza. Picture, also, screens that will be rich with a combination of visual arts as well as sport programming."
The Live Sites concept is designed to allow people to feel as though they're at the events, even if they're not able to get tickets.
"You feel as if you're there because you're with another several hundred or thousand people, watching something on a large screen that is then followed by a live performance," Rae said.
The Whistler Live! team will be working with the Whistler Arts Council to program main sites, like Whistler Medals Plaza, Village Square and Skier's Plaza, and possibly another three smaller sites at Mountain Square, where CTV's anchor studio will be situated, Town Plaza and Village Common. These static live site performances will be "knitted together" with street performers who will wander the village.
The entire price tag for the Whistler Live! program, which includes the Medals Plaza, is $12.8 million. The RMOW is providing $1 million; $5 million is coming from the federal government, and the remaining $6.8 million is coming from VANOC. The funds don't include capital costs, but do include programming costs like staging, workforce and talent. The performing talent accounts for about one-third of the $12.8 million total.
Since the medals presentations have returned to Celebration Plaza, and it is now called Whistler Medals Plaza, VANOC will be responsible for producing all of the programming of the medals ceremonies, which consist of a pre-show, medals presentations and a nightly concert or performance. But Rae points out that Whistler Live! members actually sit on the steering committee and will have "significant" input into what the events at Whistler Medals Plaza will look like.
"The reason we have significant input is because we've made a significant investment," Rae explained. "Because when we brought the medals back into Medals Plaza the way we did that was by redeploying funds that were previously earmarked for up and down the stroll at the other five sites."
Events at the Whistler Medals Plaza, which is now an official venue that will hold 5,000 spectators, won't be free; there will be a nominal charge to attend performances and ceremonies at this site.
The Whistler Live! team will develop a comprehensive schedule leading up to the Games, reporting to municipal council and agencies like the IOC, IPC and VANOC.
They're also drawing on the expertise of the creative teams and programmers from VANOC's Cultural Olympiad and Sport Production and Ceremonies.
A schedule for Whistler Live! will be posted on Whistler's Games website by September.
What's in store for WAC in 2009/2010?
The Whistler Arts Council held its annual general meeting on Thursday, June 18, electing their board of directors and appointing a new director in the process.
While Joan Pitman and Debbie Smythe were each re-elected to the board for another two-year term, Janet Brown was elected as the new director.
"I am very pleased to welcome our new and returning directors to the board and look forward to working with them over the next two years," Joan Richoz, chair of the Board of Directors, said in a recent press release. "Janet will expand and broaden our ties to the business community."
Brown comes from a business background, working as a senior executive in the banking and investment industry, sales, marking and client service. She is a B&B operator, avid skier and Chair of the Rotary Foundation.
Pitman, Smythe and Brown join Richoz, Stephanie Matches, Leanna Rathkelly, Laurie Vance, Linda Godin, Sharon Broatch, Jodi Westbury, Roger Weetman and Tom Thomson on the 2009-2010 board of directors. Outgoing members Heather Clifford, Mike Duggan, Christine Stufano and Shauna Hardy Mishaw were thanked for their contributions.
During the AGM, Richoz revealed that a committee of two board members from WAC and Maurice Young Millennium Place are currently working with the RMOW towards integrating the societies to create a hub for arts and culture in Whistler. Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants (PERC) compiled a 20-page report recommending that WAC and MY Place Society collapse into one society to be housed within MY Place, which would become the dedicated arts and culture centre of the community. Since then, Richoz said that senior staff from both organizations have been meeting to figure out operational efficiencies, while MY Place operates on a "business as usual" basis, with an interim GM working through a complete operational review, and WAC continues working on their summer projects, like ArtWalk and Whistler Art Workshops on the Lake.