May 31, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Imagine a world without art 

Celebrating 30 years of Whistler Arts Council doing the opposite

Page 4 of 8

"That was a key moment for the key players in the community. Not the community itself, but the people with power and money recognized that the arts council was a strategic partner and delivers on professional programming.

"We are going to do this event — it looks good, it's awesome. Boom! We're done," says the arts council's executive director of 10 years, Doti Niedermayer. She, too, has been instrumental in pushing the arts council from its grassroots foundation to new professional heights by harnessing her storied background with the likes of West Kootenay Regional Arts Council, Theatre BC and Artropolis.

All this in 30 years, and more, from the people — the creative, generous, open-minded, talented, dedicated, sometimes-outrageous arts council people, who, until the late 1990s when the first paid staff person was hired, were strictly volunteers.

Did I mention hard-working? Volunteers have had to build stages for performances, then take them down at the end of the night; hang art and lighting; sell tickets; silkscreen posters; serve wine; greet guests; then pick up garbage and mop the floors at the end of the show.

"I remember we'd all take a phone list and we'd each call 20 people to remind them to come out to events," says Tamsin Miller. She brought her storied past with a big theatrical agency in London, England, to the Performance Series for 11 years, twice earning the honour as "presenter of the year" from the BC Touring Council.

Besides performing artists of all stripes, from Day One the arts council also supported visual artists by exhibiting their work and selling it. In fact, the first arts council initiative in 1982, only one month after starting up, was a show and sale featuring 17 local artists.

Local artist and DJ, Chili Thom, who now enjoys an international following, credits his breakthrough to the arts council's annual art exhibit and extravaganza, ARTrageous.

"I began painting in 1998... then I had my first big break at ARTrageous in 2001. I sold a massive piece and got put on the radar of the art scene in Whistler after that," he says. Now he's been a member of the arts council for 12 years, and "can't say enough about all the hard work and opportunities they have created for artists in this town."

Arts council initiatives have also given a boost to seasoned local artists like painter Isobel MacLaurin and artist-potter Vincent Massey, whose distinctive work has graced Whistler and beyond for a combined total of 80 years.

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