What I've learned 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Media maven Pique arts editor Cathryn Atkinson as an intrepid journalist editing TV listings at the Daily Express in London in 1989.
  • Photo submitted
  • Media maven Pique arts editor Cathryn Atkinson as an intrepid journalist editing TV listings at the Daily Express in London in 1989.

I now know how to spell “acoustic” without checking. For years, I was certain that there were either two Cs, or two Ts, or both, but I never wrote it often enough for the word to be seared into my memory correctly. That changed at Pique. I got to write it a lot.

Four years ago this month, editor Clare Ogilvie asked if I’d be interested in switching over from news reporting to arts, entertainment and culture writing.

I had done it before in Canada and Britain, but my career had been invested in news and current affairs; I had been doing it almost daily for 26 years at that point. It wasn’t easy to leave all that behind, as I have a journalist’s obsession for what happens out there in newsland (and I still get twitchy when something newsworthy occurs), but when Clare surprised me with the arts gig offer, I didn’t hesitate.

I definitely wasn’t a kid anymore, and I was aware that at my age (then 48, cough, cough), such an offer would not be easily forthcoming in a world filled with talented 30-something underemployed journos (the world of newspapers being squeezed so tightly, there are a lot of them about).

I joke that the big difference between covering arts and news is that with the arts, most people are happy to see you.

So I grabbed it before anyone had second thoughts, and it turned out I liked interviewing Australian DJs, Canadian film directors and actors, visiting Juno Award nominees, and British Columbian landscape painters. All have amazing stories to tell, and I’ve always been all about the story.

At first, I was a little nervous by the idea of interviewing rappers; I figured many would be too badass to be interested in answering questions from a middle-aged mom, but interviews with the likes of Son Real and Blackalicious set me straight. They liked having serious questions asked of them.

As a byproduct, I introduced my teenage son to quite a lot of music that I was hearing first. He took this with good grace.

I also love interviewing the talent that lives and works in this region. You might decide to move to Whistler because of the ski hills, but it would be equally valid to move here as an artist seeking inspiration and creative growth.

And what a time it has been to be covering the arts and culture beat. I don’t exaggerate when I say that any community that has undergone the growth in the arts that Whistler has since 2013 is truly fortunate. The scene here is at least equal to that of a city with 100,000 people.

All this led to us coming third for arts coverage in the 2017 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for papers with circulations over 10,000. A big honour, not least because the first and second prizes went to papers serving communities of over 70,000.

The afterglow the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad kicked this arts growth off, but it takes vision and elbow grease to carry on, which artists and stakeholders here have in abundance. They picked up that Olympic torch and ran with it.

Why am I writing all this? Because this is my final week at Pique, possibly my final week in full-time journalism, if everything goes according to plan.

I’m aware of the privileges I’ve had. Thanks to this lovely job, I wrote roughly 1,000 stories on the arts in this region. I’m not even going to guess how many words that is (kidding — at least 500,000 words).

I’ve indulged in my inner fangirl by shooting photos of Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Debbie Harry, and Arcade Fire, and I’ve talked to singers Steven Page and Joe Keithley, and authors Lawrence Hill and Ann-Marie MacDonald.

I also judged the Whistler Music Search twice, a film category at the Whistler Film Festival once, a school air band competition, ran a workshop at the Whistler Writers Festival, made a film this year at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and I’ve met hundreds (thousands?) of amazing people.

It all wouldn’t have happened without Pique. Add to that the fact that I have worked with one of the best teams in my career. I will miss them.

And this job I'm about to leave has handed me my future.

I’ve just formed my own company, Arts Adventures. The idea is in the name — it will connect visitors with artists offering different types of workshops. If you see me around town, ask me about it.

I can’t wait to get cracking. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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