Arts council thinking big; needs money 

"I love to have a choice of movies, a choice of performances, a choice of events to go to," says John Hewson, vice chair of the Whistler Community Arts Council.

"What Whistler has already got to offer is great, with the club scene and the bands that come through and all the events that are here. But I think it’s a matter of it being more frequent and higher profile, maybe bigger names that are recognizable so that we’re serving both members of the local community and providing things that appeal to our international guests, so that they have another activity."

Eventually, that’s what the WCAC hopes to be able to do.

The Whistler Community Arts Council made a presentation to Whistler Council Monday night, outlining its conclusions from a weekend of strategic planning. The weekend was designed to help lay the foundation for the WCAC as the umbrella organization for development of the arts in the resort based on, but not limited to, the recommendations of the Whistler Arts Plan Report prepared by consultants last autumn.

Monday’s presentation included the same guiding principles, mission and vision statements as previously reported in Pique , broad goals that include establishing the umbrella organization by 2005, working towards building arts facilities and putting Whistler on the map not only for recreation, but as a centre for the arts. It also emphasized its intention to secure key community stakeholders – RMOW, Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler – as well as possible future stakeholders such as the 2010 Olympic Bid Committee, Whistler Chamber of Commerce and Maurice Young Millennium Place.

The WCAC also identified nine action plans for the short term: hire an executive director; develop an interim communications plan; secure title sponsorship; secure stakeholder funding; identify possible stakeholders; develop policies for stakeholder participation; create policies and procedures manual; create a master calendar; obtain buy-in from staff and volunteers.

The hiring of a full-time staff member has long been a priority for the WCAC. However, realistically it doesn’t top the list in the order of things. While Monday’s presentation was enthusiastically received by Whistler Council, it was not adopted. That means the additional $70,000 per year the WCAC is asking the RMOW to commit has not been approved, money that is earmarked for the salary of an executive director. It’s almost certain the monies the WCAC is asking of the other key stakeholders – $20,000 from Tourism Whistler, $10,000 from Whistler-Blackcomb with the WCAC responsible for raising $45,000 – also won’t be confirmed until the plan is adopted by the RMOW.

"Tourism Whistler needs some time just to digest our presentation before deciding any commitment," explains Hewson. "Whistler-Blackcomb has said they will support us, although they haven’t defined how."

As the municipal budget is set in December, the municipality’s commitment to the WCAC probably won’t be announced until that time. A paid full-time staff member isn’t expected at the WCAC until early spring.

"Regardless of when the executive director is hired, we still have to operate," says Hewson. "So what we’re looking at doing is establishing an interim communications plan, which this conversation is a part of, where we’re looking to make sure we’re communicating with our community, but also with potential sponsors and stakeholders. So we’re working on an interim sponsorship program which will take us through the next year which will focus more on local businesses supporting the arts council. It will be a community focus level of sponsorship.

"During the course of that year we will be figuring out how to position the title sponsorship program, which could include national and internationally recognized names sponsoring us for mega dollars. They would become a key funding partner, becoming recognized in everything we do."

These monies would help fund community arts events that the WCAC already supports, such as the Performance Series, Bizarre Bazaar and Artrageous, as well as the possibility of artists in residence programs, enhanced facilities and resources for local artists and the marketing of Whistler as an arts destination.

"I would love to see more (local events like Artrageous)," continues Hewson. "First we need to determine a need for it and a means for supporting it. There is some real talent in this valley and I would love to see more opportunities for it to be showcased, but I don’t know what that looks like right now. In an ideal world we will have facilities for our local artists to work in, but the challenge is funding.

"What we’re doing is a holistic approach, how do we generate revenue around the arts? If we have artists who are frustrated we really need them to come forward and talk to us. We really want to know what they need and what’s important to them. It needs to be on the radar. It needs to be part of the program we’re putting together.

"I think one thing that was key in the presentation is just making Whistler a better place to live, giving guests another reason to visit and a reason to stay longer."

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