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Whistler Museum had biggest year ever in 2015

Fee for Service report-backs offer glimpse into community organizations



Last year was a banner year for the Whistler Museum and Archives.

"It was the busiest year in the museum's history," said executive director Brad Nichols in a recent report to council.

"We had 10,035 exhibit admissions, which was up 60 per cent over 2014 and 123 per cent over 2013."

The museum saw a boost from milestone events like Whistler Blackcomb's 50th anniversary and the Resort Municipality of Whistler's 40th, Nichols said, but recurring programs like Crafts in the Park, Kiddie Apres and village walking tours continue to be successful as well.

It has also increased its online presence through its blog and social media accounts in recent years.

"We've started putting up a lot more of our images online, and since September we've had half a million image views on our SmugMug account, which has increased revenue for picture sales as well," Nichols said.

Tonight, March 15, the museum will host one of its Speaker Series events titled The Human Experience: Leadership and Group Dynamics on Ski Expeditions. The evening begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $10.

The museum was one of four local organizations that received RMOW Fee for Service funding last year. The funding is given to organizations that offer a service the municipality does not provide.

Along with the museum's $165,000, the RMOW gave funding to Whistler Animals Galore ($80,000), the Whistler Arts Council ($618,700) and the Chamber of Commerce ($145,000).

The organizations each presented to council on March 1 to show how the money has helped them.

For WAG, the money goes towards paying staff salaries and general operations, said executive director Eve Wexler.

While 2015 saw fewer animals coming to the shelter, more were in need of critical care treatment, Wexler said.

Some of the challenges WAG faces include an increasingly competitive fundraising landscape and the unpredictability of the animals that come in, but "WAG is a unique facility that prides itself in not turning special cases away," Wexler told council.

"Given the mix of animals that came in, we're really proud to say that we successfully matched all but two senior animals with their forever home, and these do require more resources in various forms in order to assist these animals and give them a second chance."

In 2015, 91 lost animals came to WAG, and 62 of them were reunited with their owners, Wexler said.

For the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), there are five objectives the money supports: Operating the Maury Young Arts Centre, supporting WAC's role as an umbrella organization for Whistler arts and culture, supporting community partnerships, providing programming and animation services and supporting WAC's cultural programs.

Thanks in part to extended hours, the Maury Young Arts Centre saw a 33-per-cent increase in visitors in 2015, said acting executive director Maureen Douglas.

"We went from 60,000 people up to 80,000 people, so we're delighted to see that that internal lift in capacity has been able to serve the community as well," Douglas said.

Out of 12 shows put on through WAC's performance series, 45 per cent were sold out.

"So we're seeing growth in both participation (and) in people coming through the doors, and (it's) affecting awareness and opportunity and attendance in other places, so it's great to see that circle link up," Douglas said.

"Moving into 2016, thanks to so much of the support that you do give us and this momentum we're feeling in the community, there is a lot to celebrate."

The Chamber's Fee for Service money was used to support the Whistler Experience program.

"We've trained now in the last two seasons almost 11,000 people, so that's about half the town, or half the workforce per annum each year," said Chamber CEO Val Litwin. "Participants are rating the workshops very, very high, so we're seeing record likelihood-to-recommend scores which is obviously very important because it drives word of mouth and engagement of more businesses in the program."

The program has proved to be an effective advocacy tool as well, Litwin said.

"We can say to young people now, 'Don't just come to Whistler to enjoy a season on the slopes and find a part time job, you can leave town now with a certificate from a university in your back pocket,'" he said.

"I don't know of any communities that can offer that to their entire workforce, and that narrative landed very nicely on our recent trip to Ottawa... the program was held up as an example of how innovative Whistler is and what they're doing to attract Canadian workers."