May 31, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Imagine a world without art 

Celebrating 30 years of Whistler Arts Council doing the opposite

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"It was grand!" says MacLaurin, who's been painting from the family cabin on the shores of Alta Lake since the '60s. "Always I've sold several [paintings] at each show. It gives me a lovely satisfaction that someone loves what I have done enough to buy it," she says.

"For me it's exposure — that I am a local artist and I have my home-based gallery here," says Massey, who's been involved with the arts council for years, including selling his unique stoneware at Bizarre Bazaar. He also teaches adult classes, which have recently "exploded."

"I teach at least one workshop a month year-round now and a lot of that has come out of the arts council," he says. "So that's one really great thing the arts council has done for me as an artist, and for a lot of other people as well."

Another important arts council role has been the distribution of member group grants on behalf of BC Arts Council to groups such as Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. It also gives out bursaries for summer art camps and art awards to local elementary and high school grads.

Nineteen-year-old Devin White — who at age 16 was the youngest participant ever in ArtWalk — is on his way this fall to BCIT's graphic design and web layout program. Last year he was honoured with the award for best art student graduating from Whistler Secondary School.

"I was happy — I was very surprised," he says about receiving the award. "There are tons of good artists in the school, and it was always fun to be in the art room with them, creating," he says.

Enriching young people's development through the arts has always been a primary arts council goal. Witness its first signature festival — the Children's Art Festival with its popular hands-on workshops.

"Early creative development is a key part of a child's development and the entire community plays a part in enhancing those opportunities," says Sharon Broatch Myrtle Philip Community School principal and a very active supporter of the arts and arts council since arriving in Whistler in the early '80s.

In fact it was a Myrtle Phillip School teacher, Margaret Long, who brought the idea of a kids' festival focused on hands-on visual, literary and performing arts workshops to the arts council table.

"My daughter Heather was three and I'd been looking at the Vancouver Children's Festival. At the time it wasn't really hands-on — it was all about performances and I thought, we could do one where the focus was on the kids doing things, rather than just watching."

Thirty years and thousands of happy kids later, the festival is still going strong, ironically now attracting families from the Lower Mainland.

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