Whistler's cultural future laid out in draft plan 

Read the recommendations that will shape the local arts community

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A draft of the Whistler Community Cultural Plan is available now for the public to read, but don't let its hulking 184 pages scare you off.

The meat of the document — which has not yet been finalized, but will soon shape the future of arts, culture and heritage in Whistler — is contained in the bite-size executive summary, which officials hope the community will read ahead of the last community open house on the plan June 25.

"That will give a pretty good understanding of the goals, strategies and recommendations," says Anne Popma, a Whistler Arts Council consultant who worked on the cultural plan. "Those are the key elements to look at."

The report, put together by Vancouver consultants with data collected during public workshops, sessions with artists and surveys, is separated into three "strategic priorities," which includes capitalizing on what Whistler already has, cultivating growth of creative activity and connecting people to their community. It also sorts the list of 32 suggestions into short- medium- and long-term goals, along with their operating implications and how much they will cost.

Some short-term recommendations: changing bylaws that prohibit home-based businesses in residential areas so artists can sell their work from home studios, setting up artist mentorships and providing adequate financial support to not-for-profit cultural organizations.

Medium-term ideas include recommendations like highlighting Whistler's heritage around the village with displays, creating a more visible community art gallery for Sea to Sky artists to "leverage the Audain Museum experience" and developing artist residencies that include live/work studios.

There are few long-term goals on the list, but several that fall into the major "capital implications" category. They include things like providing capital funding to upgrade the Rainbow Theatre (which the Whistler Film Festival Society has been trying to achieve for several months), developing a new interactive Whistler Museum that would include archival storage and implementing the infrastructure recommendations laid out in "Vision and Programming for Millennium Place" over the next decade.

A "key recommendation" is that the Resort Municipality of Whistler hires a cultural staff member to implement recommendations from both this plan and the cultural tourism development strategy. "Up until now we haven't had a cultural plan to give council a sense of (priorities)," Popma says. "Now we have one, so council will say, 'What can we do and what can we afford to do?' Hopefully the community itself will follow through on some of the recommendations, if the community is inspired. Council will listen. We're the bosses."

The draft plan will be put to community members at the June 25 meeting at Millennium Place starting at 5 p.m. where they will be asked to weigh in on it before it's finalized and sent to council.

"I know we're asking a lot of the community to read through these various plans and provide their thoughts, but it really is important," says mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, whose campaign included a promise to create the cultural plan. "This is an opportunity for the community to let us know what they think. We are going to be using each of these plans or reports (in other areas) to guide our actions over the next few years."

The community could see the results of the cultural plan within the next year, she adds. "Some of the short-term things are doable in the next 12 to 18 months. We're going to have to prioritize what we do, but we embarked on all of these reports and plans with the view of getting things done. I don't see any one of them sitting on a shelf collecting dust."

To read the draft plan online visit www.artswhistler.com.

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