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Sea to Sky Arts Councils supports region's arts and culture

First event for new umbrella group is this summer's art exhibition
New faces Joan Richoz says the region's arts councils will all benefit from working together. Photo by Cathryn Atkinson

Turn the corner at Horseshoe Bay and you are in Sea to Sky country, with the highway carrying that moniker all the way to Pemberton, 140 kilometres north.

All the communities are unique: Bowen Island — a one-time hippy haven; Lions Bay — a Howe Sound escapee from West Van; Squamish — a blue-collar engine also home to commuters and climbers; Whistler — the ski bum's paradise; and Pemberton — agricultural and horsey.

And each community has its own unique traditions with arts and culture.

Now, a new umbrella alliance is bringing these traditions together.

"We were working together on an ad hoc basis, we like to help each other," says Joan Richoz, who heads the Sea to Sky Arts Councils (SSAC).

"Every arts council in the corridor benefits from working with the others, so it was natural to have the five arts councils come together. We all want to promote arts and culture in the Sea to Sky corridor, to elevate the awareness of the diversity of the sector."

Richoz has a bit of a pedigree with this kind of work, becoming involved in the Whistler Arts Council in 1983, the year after it started, eventually becoming its president and chair.

She was also president of Arts BC for four years.

It is important for visitors in the region to have a one-stop shop to learn about the events, artists and facilities they can visit, Richoz says.

The SSAC was founded in September 2013, and currently meets every second month. Starting off with much brainstorming and establishing best practices, this summer the alliance is holding its first event, an art exhibit of work by regional visual artists.

Called "Our Sea to Sky," the show will take place on Bowen Island, running from July 20 to Aug. 15.

Richoz says a call for artists to take part has gone out, with a June 1 deadline (applications can be found on

The show may be shared around the region, though other venues have not yet been selected.

Another possibility currently under discussion by the SSAC is a regional arts conference.

"It has been slow with lots of brainstorming, which has been fun. Being on the board of the Whistler Arts Council, you move away from that kind of stuff because it's more operational here," Richoz says.

"But SSAC has some great people. The president of Lions Bay Arts Council is a strategic planner professionally and she has been great at keeping us on track. The executive director at Bowen Island is a dynamo; they do so much. You've got Marnie Simon in Pemberton, who has done amazing things, and Michelle Neilsen is Squamish's president, and she has tons of ideas and energy.

"It's great working with all these people."

One of the benefits to organizers is a new awareness of each other's skills, who can be called upon in a pinch for advice or knowledge.

The SSAC website is up but with further development of its arts calendar pending. It will eventually list all arts-related events in the Sea to Sky region in one handy reference point.

"Tourism Whistler has been developing a new events calendar and we have been included in their cultural marketing campaign. The (Whistler) arts council (and other stakeholders including the Audain Art Museum, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and the Resort Municipality of Whistler) applied for funding from Canadian Heritage and it was successful (in March). Some of that funding is for a marketing campaign, but there had to be a regional component, which is great for us at the Sea to Sky Arts Councils alliance," Richoz says.

"We hope to use the same events calendar that Tourism Whistler will develop. When you post an event to it, you will do it once, but it will populate all kinds of other sites as well.

"Apart from Whistler, these are pretty small arts councils and they don't have paid staff. One of our goals was to raise the awareness of events that will interest people travelling to the region."

For more information on Sea to Sky Arts Councils, visit

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