Locals have always known that Whistler has a lot more to
offer than beautiful mountain views and great skiing, but now the federal
government has weighed in by calling our small community a Canadian cultural
With municipal, provincial and federal flags proudly on
display at MY Millennium Place On Monday morning, Member of Parliament Jim
Abbott, the Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage, announced Whistler
had been designated as a 2009 Cultural Capital of Canada.
The Cultural Capital of Canada program was launched in 2002,
providing recognition and financial backing to communities that fall within
three population categories: over 125,000 people, 50,000 to 125,000, and under
Five cultural capitals were chosen for 2009, with a total
investment of $4.25 million to help these municipalities implement cultural
programs over the course of the year.
Selected in the under 50,000 category, Whistler will be
eligible to receive up to $500,000 in funding for arts and cultural projects in
“I was particularly pleased … that Whistler got this because
it adds an extra element, it complements all of the hard work and all of the
events surrounding the Olympics,” said Abbott.
Executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, Doti
Niedermayer, said she was very excited to hear Whistler had received the
designation, and explained that members of the local arts community and the
municipality had been working together since early 2006 to develop the
successful application package.
“I would say it was probably the first time that we’d
collaborated like that, together as a cultural community, because we really did
have to make some hard decisions about what would be funded and what projects
would move forward,” said Niedermayer.
Mayor Ken Melamed, councillors and members of the local arts
community were also in attendance at Monday’s press conference.
“The designation of this award reflects our community’s
recognition that arts and culture play an important role in building a
sustainable future,” said Melamed. “By the same token, it recognizes the
importance of strategic planning and the role of the Whistler 2020 plan in our
community, moving towards social sustainability.”
Niedermayer says the designation will help them grow
Whistler’s artists and cultural community, and the subsequent funding will be
used to develop existing projects like the Whistler Children’s Festival,
Celebration 2010 and Art Walk.
“That shows a huge opportunity for local arts,” said
Niedermayer. “For example, Art Walk artists in 2009 will have more work, more
pay, more visibility because the contents of the application are all about the
They will also introduce some new cultural activities and
programs, like a partnership with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to start
a youth paddle carving program.
One of the biggest uses of the funding will be the
development of a comprehensive, long-term plan for arts and culture in Whistler
after the Olympics.
“Everybody is very focused on 2010, but we knew from the
get-go when we had this opportunity that we needed a plan for 2011,” said
Since all of the funding has to be used in 2009, they will
start developing their 2011 plan during that period.
Melamed says Whistler’s new reputation as a Cultural Capital
of Canada will help create a cultural legacy for 2010 and beyond.
“Being named a cultural capital of Canada for 2009
exemplifies the importance of collaboration and significance of true
partnerships in our community,” he said.