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Arts Whistler reviews tumultuous year at AGM

Organization considers successes and challenges of pandemic year while looking to the future
Art on the Lake Photo by Jeremy Allen The Full Time Hobby
Art on the Lake... literally was one of the highlights of Arts Whistler’s year in 2020. photo by jeremy allen/ The full time hobby

Arts Whistler took a look back on the dramatic year that was during its 2021 Annual General Meeting last Wednesday, May 19. 

Despite the five-and-a-half-month closure of the Maury Young Arts Centre, the organization managed to rebound and host many online offerings—along with a few revamped, in-person events too.   

“Saying 2020 was an incredibly tough year is an obvious understatement,” said Michelle Ratcliffe, board chair, during the Zoom meeting. “But we did learn a lot and it’s going to serve us really well to apply these lessons in the coming years to ensure we remain strong.” 

Some highlights of the year included the Arts Online collection of online art resources—particularly helpful during the start of the pandemic; the Bike Shop Sessions, in which the organization honed its livestreaming concert skills; the success of the online Anonymous Art Show; and the in-person Art on the Lake…literally, which saw artists set up on docks on Alta Lake and participants paddle to them. 

“It was extraordinary,” said Mo Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler, about the latter event. “You take a magical venue like Alta Lake at a time when people were desperate to see each other and we found a way to actually meet the provincial health order around events, create a whole bunch of [explanations for] how we would handle the exemptions, send it to [provincial health officer] Bonnie Henry directly … The feedback we got from the public was over the top. We’ve never had a response to an event like this.” 

Meanwhile, the meeting also reviewed the year’s financials—the big takeaway being just how important the government subsidies were during this time.  

“The organization really found new ways to do more with less and to get the most of the resources that came our way,” Ratcliffe said. “And so the government financial support streams, at all levels, enabled us to keep caring for the culture of our community and our community soul.” 

The organization received $317,477 from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help offset wage costs, as well as the Canadian Emergency Business Account with a forgivable portion of $10,000. Because public gatherings were limited, there was a huge reduction in revenue rental at the Maury Young Arts Centre. Where 2019 saw $101,976 in revenue, 2020 brought in just $19,525. 

Overall, revenue—which included grants, donations, and the fee-for-service operating funds from the Resort Municipality of Whistler—came to $708,183 compared to $1,585,088 the year before. 

Expenses in 2020, however were $188,997 and $597,534 in 2019. 

In the end, factoring in the government subsidy and forgivable loan, the organization came away with $52,980 in revenue over expenses compared to $34,269 in 2019. 

“I wanted to build the balance sheet and just show you that in terms of our position at the end of the year, we actually were able to maintain cash and keep everything and actually ended up in a pretty strong position,” said Jeff Murl, Arts Whistler’s treasurer. “Definitely if you’d asked us in March last year if we were going to end up in this place, it was not looking good.”