Arts and culture growth highlighted in arts council AGM 

Increased use of Millennium Place, financial impact on Whistler Arts Council by Ironman and Tough Mudder part of the 2013 story

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON - A good year The past president of the Whistler Arts Council, Joan Richoz, left, and WAC executive director Doti Niedermayer, right, discuss how the arts council fared in 2013 at the organization's annual general meeting.
  • Photo by Cathryn Atkinson
  • A good year The past president of the Whistler Arts Council, Joan Richoz, left, and WAC executive director Doti Niedermayer, right, discuss how the arts council fared in 2013 at the organization's annual general meeting.

Completing the Community Cultural Plan for Whistler, moving the children's festival to the Village, and hiring a new community cultural officer were three of the highlights from a very busy year for the Whistler Arts Council (WAC).

There were dozens of other changes outlined in WAC's 2013 annual report, presented to members at the council's annual general meeting at Millennium Place on Tuesday, May 27.

"In 2005, we created a 10-year vision, which is now nearing its end, so in 2014 we will be creating a new vision for the future," said Joan Richoz, past-chair of the WAC Board.

"A couple of days ago I reviewed that 2005 vision, and I can't believe that we've accomplished almost everything. I remember being a little skeptical and thinking we're never going to have a million-dollar budget, we're never going to have 10 staff, this is pie-in-the-sky. Well, we surpassed that... it really shows the importance of that planning and envisioning and sticking to your plan as you move forward."

The development of the cultural plan had been recommended by consultant Stephen Thorne to the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 2010. WAC's new community cultural officer, Anne Popma, will be tasked with putting the plan into action. She begins her role on June 8.

WAC executive director Doti Niedermayer said the biggest change for her was moving the summer children's festival from Creekside, where it had been since 2004, to Whistler Olympic Plaza.

"(Creekside merchants and community) had provided considerable support but we had to move the festival for visibility, for longevity," Niedermayer said.

One result of this change was that the audience for the Children's Festival doubled, and there was a significant increase in attendee numbers from the Lower Mainland and the Pacific Northwest.

In terms of the Millennium Place Vision and Programming Plan, first finalized in the fall of 2012, it has led to much greater use of the facility, Niedermayer added.

The outcome of trying to create a hub for arts and culture at Millennium Place has led to increased arts and culture usage of the venue, including now providing a full-time home for LB Productions, and increased rentals.

Community programming in the form of classes and workshops has increased "quite dramatically," with fall classes being introduced for the first time in 2013.

A staff report about the use of the Scotia Creek Gallery stated that over 170 artists were profiled, 800 people attended receptions, and sales at the gallery increased by 54 per cent.

New Year's Eve 2013's programming at Millennium Place brought in 2,500 guests for one night, an increase of 81 per cent over 2012.

Niedermayer described the cultural plan as the biggest endeavour for WAC in 2013, taking up most of her time.

"We worked very closely with the consultants and made sure the community consultation was very thorough and inclusive. I think we accomplished that... We will have significant success in growing Whistler's culture if we are able to implement some of the key recommendations. There's low-hanging fruit but there are some challenges that will take some work to accomplish, but I have all faith that we're going to get there."

Kevin Welsh of Weir & Co. Chartered Accountants provided the WAC's 2013 financial statements. He said there were no areas of concern during the review.

"There has been a decrease in fee-for-service revenue; this is due to decreased funding for Whistler Street Entertainment, children's art festival and art and heritage tours for the public in the summer. This is due to more competitive people going for RMOW funding. We've had Ironman come, along with Tough Mudder events in the past couple of years and there are other groups fighting for RMOW funds," Welsh said.

Four directors were acclaimed to the board for two-year terms, two returnees and two new. Maureen Douglas and Lisa Geddes are returning to their roles, while Karen Playfair and Heather Paul respectively replace outgoing directors Chili Thom and Fiona Famulak. They join eight other board members, plus ex officio member from the RMOW, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

Weir & Co. Chartered Accountants were confirmed as auditors for the 2014 fiscal year.

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