Harvey named Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture 

Founder of the Whistler Writers Festival thanks supporters and fellow nominees

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Stella Harvey, the founder and organizer of the Whistler Writers Festival
  • Photo submitted
  • Stella Harvey, the founder and organizer of the Whistler Writers Festival

When Stella Harvey, the founder and organizer of the Whistler Writers Festival, was named the 2015 Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture, she gave her acceptance speech by video with the Acropolis in the background.

Harvey, who is working on her second novel in Athens, Greece, thanked the sponsors of the award, the Whistler Arts Council and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the annual Whistler Excellence Awards. The awards ceremony took place at the Westin Resort on Thursday, June 18.

She also thanked the people "who put up with me day in and day out, and allow me to dream the dreams I have for this writing community."

Harvey was one of three finalists.

Sue Eckersley of Watermark Communications was nominated for her work with Cornucopia, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and the Whistler Holiday Experience.

Stephen Vogler was nominated for his work with The Point Artists-Run Centre.

In a phone interview from Greece, Harvey said the award was a surprise.

"First of all, to be nominated was very kind and then to be a finalist with Sue and Stephen, who have done so much, is so important," she said.

"They've been friends, mentors, I've gone to them for advice and we've supported each other. We have the community we have, and the arts culture we have because of people like them. They are people who have taken the bull by the horn and made stuff happen."

Just three years ago, Harvey was burnt out and concerned about the future of the writers' festival.

"I feel as though the festival is in a better place," she said. "Publishers come to us and want us to feature their writers. Because of funding from the municipality and the BC Arts Council and others, it has allowed us to grow and get noticed."

The award raises the profile of the festival, which takes place each fall, along with its related author-in-school program and writer-in-residence program.

"They didn't exist 15 years ago and they do now because of support from the community. I hope the award shines another light on what we've been doing and gets us more support in order to grow it a little bit more," Harvey said.

"As artists, it is so hard to get noticed and an award is a way to do that."

Harvey is in Greece with her father, who had had a heart attack earlier this year, visiting family and friends, and finding long lost relatives along the way, and "getting an idea for another novel."

Her next book, The Brink of Freedom, comes out in the fall.

"We've had a great trip but it reminds me of what a city girl I am, although I don't think you can accomplish as much in a city where you are always a stranger. Europe is so different from Canada. We haven't been here long but the butcher now knows who I am, the bookstore guy knows who I am. It's a small community in a big city," Harvey laughed.

The Whistler Arts Council created the Champion of Arts & Culture award in 2003 to recognize local businesses for their contributions to arts, culture and heritage. In 2014, the award was expanded to include volunteers, cultural workers and artists.

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