Feature - Growing up & growing ar 

Whistler Arts Council comes of age

It looks like Whistler is growing up. After 40 years of chasing the Olympic rings, the Games are on their way. The struggle for recognition as one of the best ski resorts in the world is over. We have made it. But while for some people it may seem that we have finally arrived, for those people focused on the arts, Whistler is still on its way.

One of the hallmarks of a truly mature community is the provision of a balance of experiences. For the past four decades – maybe even longer – the emphasis in Whistler has been on the development of outdoor recreation opportunities. With that part of the equation figured out, the focus is shifting to cultural opportunities in the community.

Whistler has always been home to a number of enthusiastic, talented artists. But it has been a challenge for those artists to receive the recognition and resources required to support a strong arts community. Now, it looks like things are changing, and a revamped, revitalized Whistler Arts Council is leading the charge. At the same time, the Whistler Arts Council is being recognized as a role model for other councils throughout B.C.

The Whistler Community Arts Council has been around for over 20 years. Since 1982, their volunteers have worked tirelessly to provide arts and culture in Whistler and Pemberton. Every year, they have organized the Children’s Art Festival, the Missoula Children’s Theatre program, exciting performance series and numerous special events. They have also supported a number of local arts organizations and they have done all this with minimal financial support and maximum effort on the part of a core group of volunteers.

Joan Richoz is one of the longest-standing members of the arts council. Over the past two decades, she has held every executive position on the council; she is currently the treasurer. Richoz says the original impetus behind the arts council was to provide children with the opportunity to work with professional artists. Beginning with the Children’s Art Festival, the council’s mandate grew over the years.

"As well as the Children’s Art Festival, we started organizing performances, art shows, author readings, the Missoula Children’s Theatre," says Richoz. "We also provided art awards and bursaries to children from Whistler and Pemberton."

One such bursary allowed a young boy from Pemberton to attend a summer camp with the National Ballet.

All this activity inevitably led to burnout. While many members of the arts council came and went, a small group of committed volunteers slogged away at the task of bringing art to a community that was more focused on moguls than music. There was never enough money, time or space for activities and, despite the arts council’s best efforts; there was a definite lack of co-ordination of cultural activities.

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