This year Whistler (and Sea to Sky corridor) arts, culture and music news was dominated by numbers. It might sound boring (math, yuck) but those figures came in the form of funding (or a fight over funding), anniversaries and contest prizes.
There was the $34 million, five-year Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) cash, the $2.68 million for the Festivals, Events and Animation program, along with milestones like the Whistler Arts Council's 30th year and the Whistler Museum's 25th anniversary, to name just a few.
For our look back, we broke 2012 down into topics, from festivals to movie news to the announcement that Whistler will become home to the prestigious Audain Museum. So, kick back, relax and take a look at the year that was before heading into the year ahead.
The Two Acre Shaker featured an all-star DJ line-up this year with everyone from DJ Woody, a two-time world champion turntabilist, to Scientists of Sound, an electronic dance music duo from Halifax, plus Vancouver favourites Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party.
The event, which took place in August, was moved from McKinnon Farm to the Mount Currie Rodeo Grounds north of Pemberton after organizers were able to secure permission from the Lil'wat Nation to use the land. (Something they weren't able to do in 2011.)
As the corridor's answer to Burning Man, the Bass Coast Festival celebrated its fourth year with art installations, DJs, and workshops last summer. It might sound tame, but the event is always a "wild raging party," co-founder Liz Thomson told Pique. "It is also a place that is accepting of anybody and any idea. It's like a modern day university. It's a freethinking community and you're allowed to present any idea that you have."
Shunning corporate sponsorship, the event relied on ticket sales (which locals and visitors snapped up) to make it all possible.
Crankworx might be a mountain bike festival, but it also brought a ton of bands to Whistler this summer. There was Vancouver indie-folk act Said the Whale, Juno award winners Arkells and alt-rock Victoria band Jets Overhead.
On top of that, the festival hosted a brand new film competition called GoPro Dirt Diaries, which pitted six filmmakers against each other for $6,000 in cash prizes. Competitors completed six-minute films then screened them at Whistler Olympic Plaza. Similarly, the Deep Summer Photo Challenge — in its fourth year — gave five shutterbugs three days to capture large-scale action somewhere in Whistler's mountain bike park to create a slideshow for cash prizes.
Telus decided last year it would no longer sponsor the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, which takes place in April and serves as winter's last hurrah. But, as they say, the show must go on. And it did, with bands like Saskatchewan rockers (and Whistler favourites) The Sheepdogs, Calgary's The Dudes, as well as the 72-hour Filmmaker Showdown and the Pro Photographer Showdown (Pique "Best of Whistler" voters chose this festival as the best arts and culture event of 2012).
As our headline for a story on Wanderlust ("What the f@%! Is Wanderlust") captured, there might have been a little confusion surrounding this new festival initially, but it appealed to both yogis and music fans alike. Billed as a "lifestyle festival," the yoga retreat/music event took place at four ski resorts in North America last year, adding our neck of the woods to their roster. The highlight in Whistler: a free concert by funky reggae-rockers Michael Franti & Spearhead (voted best free concert in Pique's "Best of Whistler" survey).
Still called Live At Squamish when it brought soul singer Charles Bradley, east coast indie rockers Wintersleep and Can-rock heroes The Tragically Hip to Squamish last summer, organizers have rebranded this event the Squamish Valley Music Festival for 2013. Growing the event slowly, its beautiful location combined with a well-curated line-up attracted around 12,000 music fans on its second day after a slow start.
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra made its return to Whistler for two nights of classical music at Whistler Olympic Plaza last summer. The first night was dubbed "Classic Summer Celebration," featuring a selection of European composers while the second night included work by well-known favourites like Beethoven and Brahms.
After a successful 2012 event, Cornucopia, Whistler's food and wine festival, announced it would be expanding its programming for 2013 to include 11 days of festivities. Hotel occupancy was strong this year and while fewer U.S. visitors made the trek to Whistler, there was a spike in attendance by the LGBT community. More than 25 of the festival's events sold out and it raised over $30,000 for Whistler Animals Galore (WAG), a charity partner.
Like the aforementioned Deep Summer Photo Challenge, its winter counterpart, the Deep Winter Photo Challenge sold out its accompanying show in 2012. Photographer Robin O'Neill beat out five other shooters to become the first woman to win this annual competition, which sends photographers out into the elements with 72 hours to capture images.
Whistler sous chef Jimmy Stewart from the Bearfoot Bistro competed in Top Chef Canada last year. Though he didn't take the Food Network's $100,000 grand prize, he was featured on the small screen on Monday nights for several weeks.
Local artist (and DJ) Chili Thom was voted Canada's top landscape artist by the Federation of Canadian Artists in the spring. Thom beat out other top-name competition from across the country, winning the honour with a painting called "The Green Giant." It was his first award.
Whistler-based ski and snowboard manufacturer Prior held a topsheet competition in the fall to collect local art for its 2013/14 line. After the public voted on the submissions at the Scotia Creek Gallery, it declared four winners: Vanessa Stark, Kris Kupskay, Leah Winhold and Catherine Roy. The boards are expected to be ready for purchase in August 2013.
Singer-songwriter Mike FroMontreal won the Whistler Music Search for the second year in a row at the Crystal Lounge. This time around, he had to beat out some stiff competition and food poisoning during the final round. "Mid-performance I had to run out to go throw up," he told Pique.
Still, he managed to add another prize guitar to his collection.
WinterPRIDE turned 20 in February and the Resort Municipality of Whistler officially declared it Pride Week. The event attracted around 2,500 people with 40 per cent from the U.S., 30 per cent from Canada and another 30 per cent from overseas. It included an endless string of après ski events, parties that carried on into the morning, a wine tasting, comedy show and a pride parade. This year the event is set to return Feb 3-10.
The Whistler Museum & Archives celebrated 25 years in February, six months before its founder, Florence Petersen, passed away Aug. 28 at age 83. Blossoming from a promise Petersen made to Whistler pioneer Myrtle Philip to document the community pre-ski industry, the museum has collected a large archive of books, clothes, photos and other artifacts. "I knew some of the old timers who felt that when skiing came, they'd be forgotten," Petersen told Pique on the museum's anniversary. "I said when I retired that I would collect photographs and stories to show and leave proof that they had been here."
The Whistler Arts Council turned the big 3-0 in June and to celebrate they threw a month-long party. There was craft-making, dance classes, and a variety of art workshops, from life drawing to intro to body painting. Read about the WAC and it anniversary at www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/imagine-a-world-without-art.
Howe Sound Performing Arts marked 20 years with a special concert in September. Formed to foster a music scene in the Sea to Sky corridor back in the '80s, today the organization helps develop local talent and bring in performers who might not otherwise play here. Their anniversary show, for example, featured a pianist performing pieces by French composer Claude Debussy with a photo exhibit of 10 local photographers.
Whistler Film Festival
Where to start? Well, there was the festival itself, which was studded with stars like Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame and Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation, Celeste and Jesse Forever. Then there was a host of films, and several new threads like the GKIDS Animation Showcase and the Late Night TerrorFest — thanks to Paul Gratton, the new director of programming hired last year. It also awarded up to $31,500 in cash prizes and commissions in nine competitive film categories.
Also new this year: the groundbreaking, inaugural China Canada Film Script Competition, in which Chinese production companies awarded up to $5 million in funding for three Canadian teams of producers and writers.
The festival saw a 20 per cent spike in attendance compared to 2011 with almost 10,000 people taking part in the five-day fest. But strong year aside, the Whistler Film Festival Society continued to struggle to secure funds for its $2.7 million Rainbow Theatre renovation. Shauna Hardy Mishaw, executive director and founder of the festival, has said that the project is imperative to the future of festival in order to provide a venue equipped with film technology that is becoming standard for the industry.
In early December, council agreed to provide $350,000 in RMI money if the WFFS met certain requirements, including securing $1.34 million for the project. The deadline to line up the sum was initially Dec. 31, but council recently extended it to February.
Garibaldi 5 Cinemas, Squamish's only movie theatre, closed its doors this summer. Metropolitan Theatres, the U.S.-based company that owned both that theatre and Whistler's Village 8, said the costs to upgrade the venue from film to digital (which is becoming necessary to screen regular and 3D films) was too high. Shortly after, Churchill Property Corp., which owns the mall where the theatre was located, launched a lawsuit against the company, claiming it owed unpaid rent to the tune of $700,000.
Later in the year, though, Metropolitan Theatres announced Whistler's Village 8 would not suffer the same fate. The theatre was one of 82 screens across North America converted to digital technology by the end of the year.
Whistler's beloved B-Grade Horrorfest went on hiatus for 2012. Pique's own film columnist Feet Banks and artist Chili Thom announced over Facebook that they'd be taking the year off in order to keep the fest going long-term. ""We'd like to grow the fest and continue to step it up and for a variety of reasons that was looking more and more difficult to do this year so we decided to give everyone a rest," Banks said.
It was a thrilling surprise: Vancouver developer, philanthropist and art collector Michael Audain chose Whistler as the location to build a museum that would permanently house his private collection of art, one of the biggest and best in the country.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and the rest of council were over the moon. The museum was exactly what they were looking for to expand cultural offerings in this predominantly mountain sports town. "It was completely unexpected, unanticipated and yet it's exactly in line with what our goals and objectives are," Wilhelm-Morden said at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the museum Dec. 18.
The deal works like this: Whistler will grant a $1 lease for 1.2-hectares of land between parking lots 3 and 4 for a term of 199 years while the Audain Art Museum (a registered non-profit) will pay for the construction of the building and operating costs. Audain is anxious to have the project complete, aiming to open the museum's doors by late 2014 or early 2015.
There's no final word on which pieces of his world-class collection will be displayed in the museum, but he has an extensive variety of First Nations art and contemporary B.C. paintings from Emily Carr, E.J. Hughes and Gordon Smith from which to chose. The museum will house exclusively B.C. art.
Festival, Events and Animation funds
The FE&A funding was a hot topic in 2012. It seems everyone had an opinion on where the money — funded by the RMI pot with a goal of enhancing cultural events during the slower shoulder seasons — should go. The RMI was developed in 2006 by the province and includes development, business promotion and financing tools to enhance the resort sector in B.C.
There was debate about whether for-profit festivals should receive the same consideration for funding as non-profit festivals, local versus non-local festivals, and whether funded events were too party-focused.
In the end, around $475,000 was set aside for existing festivals like the Whistler Film Fest (which received $125,000), Wanderlust ($100,000), Crankworx ($100,000), GranFondo ($75,000), the Children's Arts Festival ($45,000) and Cornucopia ($35,000). Startup festivals also received a $55,000 piece of the pie, with $34,000 going to the Spirit Within Festival and $5,000 for the Readers and Writers Festival.
Money was also earmarked for the Whistler Presents free concert series, which included everyone from Juno winning singer-songwriter Dan Mangan to indie-jazz singer Jill Barber.
Controversial? Maybe. But the summer of 2012 wound up being one of Whistler's busiest.
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