Enter Arts Whistler, with new priorities and plans 

The Whistler Arts Council rebrands and sets out its vision for the next five years at AGM

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - New way forward Acting Arts Whistler executive director Maureen Douglas with the newly branded banner for the organization.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • New way forward Acting Arts Whistler executive director Maureen Douglas with the newly branded banner for the organization.

Dropping one word and switching the order of the remaining two, the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) has been reborn as Arts Whistler.

"What we want to see is that all the audiences we serve are aware of a bigger picture in Whistler in the arts. We wanted the bigger picture to be better reflected in our name," said acting executive director Maureen Douglas.

WAC announced it was rebranding and reorganizing itself at its annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, May 25 — effective immediately.

Arts Whistler represents a shift in perspective that will be rolled out over the next five years, with the timing being perfect to do so, Douglas added.

"We finished our 10-year strategic plan at the end of 2015 and spent time developing the next five-year plan," she said in an interview prior to the AGM.

"It became apparent even before (former WAC executive director) Doti (Niedermayer) moved on (in February) that we wanted to make some substantial shifts that might seem almost subtle to the community, but which are not subtle to the arts, culture and heritage sector.

"The board and the staff wanted to step into the role of collaborative leader for arts, culture and heritage in Whistler."

The arts council had been taking on this role in an ad hoc way, Douglas said, but with the organic expansion of the arts and culture sector in the resort, coupled with changes within WAC itself and a recent Canadian Heritage grant of $489,500, it was a good time to look at the overall picture.

"We've got amazing (arts and culture) organizations. Some have been here a long time, like the Whistler Museum, others have emerged over the last several years and have been working so hard to become fundamental to arts and culture in Whistler, like the work Stephen Vogler has done at The Point, or the Whistler Film Festival, or Whistler Writers' Festival... right up to the addition of the Audain Art Gallery," Douglas said.

"Having some consistent leadership for the arts, culture and heritage community as it grows, as grants and new opportunities become available, we felt that it should be part of the arts council's role beyond our specific functions and activities."

This includes helping with advocacy and fundraising, development of the wider arts and culture scene, and marketing it at a greater level than in the past. Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler will help provide a unified approach.

The process started last fall with the renaming of Millennium Place to the Maury Young Arts Centre.

"We're so different from every other arts council in British Columbia. For many years we had the typical model of a wonderful group of volunteers, employing great effort to make things happen like workshops or the children's festival, but now it's greater than this," said Douglas.

"I think the community is ready to shake things up in a really good way."

There were four primary focuses for the planned changes in the five-year plan, Douglas said.

Arts Whistler aims to become the collaborative leader to further Whistler's arts, heritage and culture scene by supporting the creative development of Whistler's artists and groups; it wants to foster and deliver arts and cultural itineraries at the Maury Young Arts Centre and online; grow arts and culture in a resort economy; and strengthen Arts Whistler's capacity.

Douglas likened it to a chamber of commerce role, but for the arts.

Arts Whistler has hit the ground running, she said, currently interviewing potential web developers for a new website that will be launched in the early fall.

And starting this week, a comprehensive event list of all arts, culture and heritage happenings in Whistler will become available around the resort, including shows and courses.

It will be updated several times a year.

"It's the first time we've ever done a consolidated brochure that includes all the offerings of us and the other cultural players," Douglas said.

Once the branding process and renaming has been completed, the search for Arts Whistler's new executive director will commence.

The rest of the year will also be taken up with carrying out the development associated with the Canadian Heritage Grant, Douglas said.

For more information, visit www.artswhistler.com.

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