Young Artists not in Whistler this year Loss of title sponsor moves the program to UBC By Paul Andrew A good news/bad news situation involving the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts may shape the future of the arts community in the Whistler Valley. At the very least, the parties involved hope to come together with a collaborative effort to solidify the Comprehensive Cultural Plan adopted by Whistler council more than a year ago. The Young Artists’ Experience, a two week summer program in Whistler for gifted young chamber musicians living in the Pacific Northwest, is being temporarily relocated to the University of British Columbia. The program, which involved numerous workshops, lodging and concerts around town, would have been in its eighth summer in Whistler. But the loss of Hyatt Hotels as title sponsor was too much for the program to overcome, said Anne Popma, media contact and former president of the Whistler Centre. "There’s a lot of reasons there. It was moved to save money and there’s really no venue here," Popma said last week. "Plus they get to use the facilities at UBC for free. The Hyatt’s development approval has been delayed so they’re not even in the ground yet. Without a title sponsor it’s very discouraging. It’s like swimming upstream." The program this summer is connected to UBC’s music program in a variety of ways, including through music director and Professor of Music at UBC Rena Sharon. Sharon has been with the Young Artists’ Experience program for the last three years. While rehearsals and most concerts will take place at UBC, there will be one free concert in Whistler, on July 26 at the Town Plaza Gazebo. The Young Artists’ Experience program and the Music in the Mountains series of concerts were the last active programs under the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts umbrella. The organization severely scaled down its operations nearly two years ago amid uncertainty about future directions and subsequent funding problems. Among the questions raised at that time was whether the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts couldn’t combine efforts with the Whistler Community Arts Council. Now, finally, the two organizations are coming together as a team to determine a long term strategy for the Whistler arts community. The first step, Popma said, is hiring a staff person to act as a "go to" person for the community. Someone who can answer most questions about the opportunities for artists in Whistler. "We are collaborating to hire a staff person who will start part-time. They’ll set up an office in the muni trailer near the library — it’s the Housing Office right now — and the artists will have a place to go for advice and information. We’re really excited that there’s something going on at the municipal level right now. The cultural planning will start this fall." Bob Kusch, manager of program services and community liaison for the RMOW, said the collaboration is actually more comprehensive in the long run. The RMOW, the Whistler Community Arts Council, Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts, Whistler/Blackcomb and the Whistler Resort Association will all be involved in discussions during the next six to eight months regarding the cultural plan for Whistler. "Through a variety of discussions, we all thought it would be a good idea to co-ordinate all that was going on," Kusch said. "A staff person was what came out of that. The municipal grant in aid was in the municipal budget and was approved in November." The news for the arts community in Whistler is even more positive now, Kusch says, because Whistler councillors are supporting the collaboration. "I think for the future of the arts in the community, they are two major groups," he added. Paul Campbell, vice president of the Community Arts Council and the owner of the adele/campbell art gallery at the Delta Whistler Resort, said the two groups are thrilled to get the grant, and will be conducting intense interviews during the next two weeks in order to find the right person for the job. Whom ever is hired, both Popma and Campbell agree that person will fill more than one role in the community. "This grant will finally put a warm body in that office," Campbell said from her gallery Wednesday. "And they will be there for everybody to talk to, all artists. We did put out a call for applications a while ago and we did have a short list ready. But I think we have to better define the job. We want to show the muni that we really appreciate the grant and that we’re very excited about it. "The Arts Council and the Centre for Business and the Arts haven’t actually collaborated on any projects yet. That will happen later and evolve over time. But I think in the next couple weeks, we’ll be ready to hire someone to staff the office."