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Scope of arts beginning to summit

Newly named Sea to Sky Cultural Alliance plans cultural summit for fall in Squamish

What began as the Sea to Sky Cultural Collaborative has now officially become the Sea to Sky Cultural Alliance, whose mission is to stimulate engagement in cultural experiences throughout the region, from North Vancouver to Mount Currie, and including Bowen Island. Their first order of action is to host a cultural summit, set tentatively for Nov. 4 in Squamish.

"It has political will and clout as well as people involved in the arts," said Patty Heintzman, a Squamish councillor, of the group.

"It’s a really diverse and dedicated group with all the same goal in mind, but we are all coming from different perspectives."

The Alliance hosts bi-monthly meetings, and includes various members of the corridor arts community as well as appearances by mayors, councillors, arts councils and tourism officials who are looking to leverage the opportunities the 2010 Games presents to ensure the growth of arts, culture and heritage for years to come.

While roughly a dozen officials have joined forces to better understand what is creatively happening in other communities, the group saw a need for a more all-encompassing arrangement.

The Sea to Sky Cultural Summit: Building Cultural Pride — Corridor Wide will welcome more than 100 individuals to the forum, including artists in all disciplines, businesses in the private sector, educators, arts administrators, politicians and municipal administrators representing Sea to Sky communities, including the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.

The one-day forum will include speakers as well as workshops. The group is only in planning stages, and therefore, no formal details are available yet.

"The idea is to get all the different artistic groups and festivals on the same page of promoting each other," Heintzman said. "We want to create that Sea to Sky Cultural Identity and through that we can start to co-promote festivals and get a greater awareness of arts in the corridor and our daily lives."

Heintzman said she hopes their efforts will not only bring more artists to the area, but also generate economic spin offs and foster a greater appreciation of the arts in the corridor.

"We often forget," she said. "For example, Squamish was voted the second most artistic community (for its population) in Canada. Sometimes you don’t appreciate or realize how many creative individuals we have in the corridor. We are not only branding how to market ourselves as a destination, but how we demonstrate to visitors and locals how significant arts, culture and heritage is to us… This is something we should honour and have a lot of pride in."

The Alliance also formulated the group’s branding statement, "Cultural Pride — Corridor Wide", and narrowed initiative values down to three points: focus on the biggest impact for all communities in terms of priorities; there is strength in collaboration and sharing; and raising public profile and engaging participants in culture.

"We want to make sure we are all on each others’ calendars," Heintzman said. "We are not competing with each others’ events…. We are realizing how strong we are united rather than operating as individual communities… It was not too long ago that we didn’t really have dialogue among the communities and all of a sudden we are talking, and things are really coming along. We want to come out of these meetings with action items."