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Cultivating a sense of home

LETTER: For the week of Sept. 5

I loved Brandon Barrett's far-reaching feature, "Turning the page" (Pique, Aug. 29), describing how libraries—Whistler's, the Xwi7xwa library at UBC, and more—are staying wonderfully relevant in our fast-changing world.

I'm so glad librarians don't shush us anymore, and that libraries themselves are more welcoming than ever for all kinds of people. If I still lived in Edmonton, my hometown, I'd be the first in line tomorrow morning to use their 3D printer.

But I loved his column, "A love letter to the library," in the same issue, even more. It really struck a nerve.

When I moved to Whistler in the early '80s, it was for a reporter's job like Brandon's, also for The Whistler Question. Like him, I wasn't really outdoorsy. I didn't ski, didn't jog, run, or play tennis. And, like the fellow who loves to enjoy the current library's spacious "living room" and watch a dusting of snow fall through its soaring windows, I didn't live in a grand house, and never will.

Like Brandon, I was also pretty far from family and friends, plus I'd grown up on a diet of art, books and ideas. Other than my work at the newspaper, and the great gang of people who worked there, I pretty much felt like a fish out of water, too.

So it was a total flashback when he described how the library gave him a sense of place—a home—that nowhere else did when he first moved to Whistler and felt like he didn't fit in.

It was that same kind of feeling that drove me to start the Whistler Arts Council (now Arts Whistler), the "family" that fostered the library and a whole bunch of other good ideas.

Picture it. It was 1982, and we, the gang who first met to weave arts and culture into the fabric of the community, didn't have a single physical space to call home—there was no Maury Young Arts Centre, no library, no museum. We didn't even have a dedicated room to meet in.

But this group of very warm, very smart, very funny, generous people who were very interested in the arts (I use "the arts" loosely) found each other and built a happy, comfortable space for ourselves and anybody else who longed for it. We encouraged each other, helped each other out, and made a sense of place from our dreams, some of which eventually came true.

One of these was Margaret Long, who dreamt of Whistler having a Children's Art Festival. It came true. Another was Tamsin Miller, who dreamt of a huge lineup of quality performing arts. It came true. And one of them was Joan Richoz, who dreamt of having a library.

As for me, I dreamt of, and got to enjoy it all.

Besides the newspaper office, that little-engine-that-could arts council was my home, my sense of place at Whistler. In fact, it was the newspaper then, as it is today, that helped the arts council and its endeavours thrive.

It feels sweet—remarkable, even—to see how that little engine could do the same thing for Brandon and, I bet, a few other people over the years.

If anybody ever tells you that art and culture aren't important in a place like Whistler, don't believe them for a nanosecond.

And thanks, Brandon, for the memories.

Glenda Bartosh // Vancouver