February 18, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Olympic Games raise profile of Whistler as cultural destination 

Continued funding key to ongoing success

This time last year, Village Stroll was a spectacle to behold, even for jaded locals, who no longer stumble around slack-jawed in awe of Whistler's natural beauty.

From February 12 to 28, a special kind of magic had taken hold in the cobblestone walkways of town, and strangely enough, it wasn't our athletes alone who were responsible for sprinkling around that red and white pixie dust.

It was our artists.

Sea to Sky artists were a central part of Whistler's 2010 Olympic and Paralympic experience: they were painting live and interacting with curious onlookers, providing the soundtrack to the nightly Fire and Ice Remix, performing on the main stage in Village Square, telling stories by the pedestrian bridge and busily engaging visitors in community arts projects. They were there to create colour, atmosphere and character, to share a little piece of Whistler with the world, and to make sure that everyone knew that there is more to this little ski town than just, well, skiing.

"The Games just showed people what was possible and how much culture can affect people in a community, and tourism and atmosphere," said Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC).

"There were tons of people, including me, who barely went to a sporting event.

"Most of it was in the village, and what was that all about? Well, it was about people and the programming."

Niedermayer arrived in Whistler just one year before the winning bid was announced, and remembers making the trip into the village bright and early, at 7 a.m. to hear the verdict.

"It was that moment; it was very exciting!" she recalls with a smile.

One of the first meetings she had after Whistler won the bid was with The Vancouver Organizing Committee's Burke Taylor.

"We had a three-hour discussion, and I knew then that it was a big deal, because he approached me right away to say, 'This is going to be very important that we work together and that we really create a Cultural Olympiad that catapults our arts organizations forward,'" said Niedermayer.

"We also had a board of directors that was very visionary and who immediately jumped up and said, 'Okay, what are the opportunities? How are we going to use this as a catalyst to move forward the Arts Council and the arts in Whistler, and our artists?'"

Quite early on, WAC decided it would be best to focus on the community's strengths: our painters, visual artists, DJs and writers. They also set to work developing their village animation and street entertainment programs, looking for artists who were talented, dependable and outgoing.

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