The Point moves beyond the fringe 

It's upward momentum for Whistler's artist-run centre following the Cypress Point Winter Carnival

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.COM - SING IT, SISTER Musician Susan Holden (left), performs for Linda Epp, Peter Vogler and Mark Beaven at the Cypress Point Winter Carnival.
  • Photo by David Buzzard/www.media-centre.com
  • SING IT, SISTER Musician Susan Holden (left), performs for Linda Epp, Peter Vogler and Mark Beaven at the Cypress Point Winter Carnival.

Every year, The Point Artists-Run Centre on Alta Lake chooses a theme that is applied to events and festivals for the next 12 months.

This year it is "On the Fringe," says artistic director Stephen Vogler.

"A lot of great work is 'on the fringe' until it is adopted into the mainstream. That's where we're at right now," Vogler reflects.

"We originally used our themes just for our visual arts show, but then we realized we could use it for our festival in the summer and everything else that goes on.

"Last year was Collaboration and Experimentation, and I think we broke new ground creatively with our plays and multi-disciplinary pieces in 2015. And we plan to break new ground this year, too."

After five years of existence, The Point remains on the geographical fringes of the resort, in a clapboard building that once housed the Whistler Youth Hostel, on the far side of Alta Lake.

Vogler is not frustrated by either fringe monikers. On the contrary, he says it leads to a positivity and excitement about their shows.

"It is part of the reason that a lot of great art is created on the fringes of society. It's a fecund place to be, you have perspective, a lot of different influences," he says.

This past weekend, the Cypress Point Winter Carnival drew artists, musicians and snow carvers to the centre, along with 100 participants during the day and 70 for the evening's concert and dinner.

"It went really well," Vogler says. "The weather cooperated and we had enough snow."

A grassroots arts organization that would be at home in urban neighbourhoods or good-sized towns, the lakeside venue works a little harder to get people to come out, partly because it is several kilometres from Whistler Village and for others reasons.

"When I talk to people around town, there is a misconception that it only profiles local art, but we're trying to bring the local arts scene up to the level of what's happening in Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle or Portland," he adds.

Over the year, there are two festivals, classes, community dinners, film and music nights, dance performances and more.

Recently, The Point has become home to community rock and pop singing drop in, Barbed Choir, and the Writers Adventure Camp — in its second year — has expanded from two days to four-and-a-half days.

The Point makes everything work thanks to community generosity, with the municipality leasing Vogler the building on affordable terms.

"We've always tried to generate economic activity through what we put on. Most of our budget comes from event revenue: ticket sales, food, bar sales, and there is, of course, memberships and fundraising," he says.

It's an absolute bargain to support The Point financially. For a mere $200 donators can claim bragging rights as Benefactors.

Grants are beginning to come, too.

"But because we have grown so much, it has gone beyond what can be just volunteer positions," he says.

Two positions, Vogler's as artistic director and Joanna Faella as kitchen manager, get a stipend. He hopes it won't be too long before they can afford an administrator and a publicity position.

"We manage to eke out a little bit but we don't know what it is going to be until the end of the year, so we need to find a solid funding formula," Vogler says.

"To follow the vision of the arts centre that we've been developing we now need longer-term arrangements in order to create a little more security."

Security would have a snowball effect, enabling The Point to drive even more funding from grants and sponsorship.

"I think we're in a good position for moving to the next stage because it feels like we have the community behind what we're doing. Because it feeds into cultural tourism very well, there is an appeal well beyond the community," Vogler says.

"We're still on the fringe but we're moving more towards the middle."

For more information on The Point and upcoming events visit www.thepointartists.com.

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