February 18, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Olympic Games raise profile of Whistler as cultural destination 

Continued funding key to ongoing success

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"We really did showcase our very best, so how that translated on the stage was you couldn't tell the difference between the street entertainment from France or the live painter from Pemberton, because they were all high-level professionals," Niedermayer says.

In the end, local artists' Games-time involvement more than lived up to her expectations.

"I knew we absolutely wanted to integrate our artists with the international and the national artists, and I also knew we had some amazing talent in this town, but I think it far surpassed how I envisioned it," she says.

"I think we've done a lot to raise the profile of a number of artists through our shows and the Olympics, when they were programmed. So I think the artists that were ready and able, I think if you asked someone like Vanessa Stark or Chili Thom, they would say, 'Yeah, my life has changed! I'm getting a lot more work.'

"It wasn't just getting a paid gig during the Olympics, it was raising their profile within the community, and I think we've done that. And I think that the ones that really took themselves seriously and wanted to be professional artists got a real boost."


One artists' experience


Stan Matwychuk is just one of the many Sea to Sky artists who got involved in the Games. He's lived in the corridor for almost nine years, working with other local artists and arts groups on community projects and events, and today, helps run the Squamish-based artistic collective, Homebase Studios.

"It took a while to actually make some money doing it," says Matwychuk. "For many years, it was just sort of wanting to be a part of it and contributing time."

That investment paid off during the Olympic Games, when Matwychuk found himself involved in not one, but six separate Games-related arts projects.

"I just started filling out these forms and getting all this information and then all of a sudden I literally had something booked for every day during the Olympics; it was pretty ridiculous!"

He definitely didn't shy away from any Olympic activities: he was involved in the Fire and Ice at Skiers Plaza; live painting and facilitating Whistler's community mural project with another local artist, Vanessa Stark; and coordinating the urban mural graffiti exhibit at two on-site locations on Grouse Mountain.

"They had a pretty big set-up on-mountain, and I was there when Alex Bilodeau won the first gold medal for Canada, and then I was there for when Canada won the gold medal at women's ski cross!" he recalled. "It was wild, just seeing everyone, everything was just vibrating. The air was electric."

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