Olympic arts fund could have long-term benefits 

Local artists could be in a position to profit after the B.C. government established a $5-million Olympic arts fund last month to support activities that will promote the 2010 bid.

"The fund will be used to sponsor and showcase B.C. artists," said West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling. "We want to make sure the funding is as broad as possible and promotes all art forms."

Nebbeling is the provincial government's minister of state for community charter and 2010 Olympic bid. He is also a former Whistler mayor and Whistler Resort Association director.

The Olympic arts fund will increase to $20 million over the next four years.

But Donna Milstein, a director of the fledgling Whistler Arts Council, said she has not heard from the provincial government about how the funds will be distributed.

According to Nebbeling, the funds have not yet been ear-marked for any particular activities but a subcommittee will be formed to deal with that task.

He said the arts fund will help create a flourishing arts and culture scene in the Sea-to-Sky region like the one that happened during Expo 86 in Vancouver.

"Expo had every cultural aspect – creative arts, street performances, concerts, opera," he said.

The arts fund could also have some long-lasting effects on the Whistler region's tourism industry.

"Tourists won't be coming here just to experience the geography," said Maureen Douglas, owner of a Whistler-based event management company. "They want a cultural experience and that could have lasting impacts on individuals and the community as a whole."

Douglas was involved in arts programming at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, which was run along a cowboy theme.

She said those Olympic Games have provided a long-term benefit for that city's arts and culture scene.

"Downtown Calgary's Olympic plaza has turned into a vibrant gathering place and Stampede attendance has gone up every year since," she told Pique Newsmagazine.

According to Douglas, the 2010 bid could be used to showcase the Whistler region's native cultures and burgeoning visual artists.

"The Olympic bid will provide a chance to showcase local talent and culture to the rest of the world," she said.

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