A year of laying a foundation for culture 

Whistler’s run as a Cultural Capital of Canada comes to an end in March; what has the $500,000 arts, culture and heritage program accomplished?


Pique readers have probably noticed a little black and white icon that, up until Dec. 31 had run on the front page of the paper for the past year, and many have probably wondered what it stands for.

The symbol denotes the community's designation as a Cultural Capital of Canada, a title that was bestowed on us by the federal government's Department of Canadian Heritage in late 2008.

As part of the honourary title for 2009, the community received $500,000 in funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage to support a range of local arts, culture and heritage projects within the community. That money was augmented by an additional $166,667 in funding from other sources, including the Resort Municipality of Whistler. That added up to a whole lot of dough for the arts, culture and heritage groups that were selected to take part in Cultural Capital programming.

John McCormick is a consultant for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the central organization that has worked on developing Whistler's participation in the Cultural Capital program. He has been managing the program since its inception in 2006 with the "Celebration 2020: a natural step towards cultural sustainability" plan, through to the projected completion date this summer.

"It's been very successful," McCormick said. "It's been great to work with the federal government on this; they've been excellent partners."

The budget from May 2009 shows a range of organizations scheduled to receive funding, including the Whistler Arts Council, Whistler Museum, MY Millennium Place, Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Crankworx, Vicious Circle writers group and the Whistler Film Festival Society. While some of the money went towards augmenting existing projects, like the museum's heritage walks and WAC's annual ArtWalk, an original theatre production was also created with the seed money. As well, the funds allowed Crankworx organizers to add another artistic component to their event with the Art Meets Technology visual arts project.

"I'm happy with it because the projects or the programs that were involved are happy," McCormick said.

Even with the increased funding from Cultural Capitals, the Vicious Circle has decided to cancel next fall's Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, deciding instead to focus on holding workshops throughout the year.

"When you plant seeds, some catch hold and some don't," McCormick said.

Though Whistler's run as one of the 2009 Cultural Capitals wraps up at the end of March, McCormick and other stakeholders are still in the midst of executing a few projects.

They are still developing the original commissioned theatre piece, SNOW: A Whistler Musical, and organizing the arts and culture component of the parade for the Paralympic closing ceremonies.


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