Whistler gets behind the arts 

Arts council moves ahead with $255,000 in RMOW funding

There were many accomplishments to revel in at the Whistler Arts Council Annual General Meeting Tuesday at MY Millennium Place, but the excitement of the night surrounded the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council’s approval of the Whistler Arts Council’s request for $255,000 from the Community Enrichment Program, a $140,000 increase from the previous year.

"There is no other community in B.C. that gets this kind of support," said treasurer Joan Richoz, applauding the municipality’s financial contribution. "(This budget) reflects the confidence our council has in the Whistler Arts Council."

From the $255,000, $100,000 will be used to create a new office of community coordination to further council’s vision for arts, cultural and heritage to 2010 and beyond. Funds will facilitate initiatives such as community meetings, an economic impact study as well as a new staffing position. The remaining $155,000 will be allocated to existing programs and services.

The Whistler Arts Council’s 2006 draft budget is projected at an estimated $615,000 – a $260,000 increase from the previous year.

With the number of visions set out for 2006, funding is more crucial than ever.

The Whistler Arts Council’s strategic focus continues to be on the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Olympiad and Olympic Art Festival; the Arts, Culture and Heritage Strategy within the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan; strategic partnerships and alliances; maintaining and growing existing programs and services; and further developing diversified sources of revenue.

"We want to maximize the opportunity," said Whistler Arts Council Chair Anne Popma of the 2010 Games and cultural activities. "(VANOC is) not asking us to put on the ceremonies or organize the festival. They are asking the Whistler Arts Council to take a lead role in mobilizing (organizations) and to determine what we want left behind."

As part of the Arts, Culture and Heritage Strategy, the Whistler Arts Council will conduct an economic impact study on the arts, determining the value of existing activities, such as the Children’s Art Festival, for sponsors.

Finding new sponsors to supplement revenue will be a major push this year. In the past, the arts council relied primarily on grants and foundation funding. In-kind donations increased by $47,681 from 2004 to 2005. The arts council wants to build on that success and therefore is developing a new patron program to be launched sometime within the next few weeks.

The establishment of this year’s $200,000 Legacy Arts and Culture endowment fund, thanks to the foresight of Popma and the Community Foundation of Whistler, also demonstrates the arts council’s steps in diversifying revenue.

The arts council continues to build alliances and partnerships with organizations such as the Community Foundation of Whistler, RMOW, Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb, VANOC and MY Millennium Place. The Whistler Arts Council and Whistler Museum and Archives are currently in discussion about the possibility of integrating a much-needed public art gallery into the museum’s plans for its new home.

It was a banner year for Whistler Arts Council programming; numbers were up on all accounts. Out of Bounds, a backcountry photography exhibit, wielded more viewers than any other exhibit at MY Millennium Place this year, with more than 1,800 attendees. ArtWalk 2005 doubled in size with an additional print run of the map brochures to keep up with the demand. With only a $9,000 budget increase to the Whistler Children’s Art Festival, last year’s attendance at its new Creekside location increased 200 per cent. Whistler’s biggest Christmas craft show, Bizarre Bazaar, also saw an increase of 1,000 attendees.

While volunteers, board members, artists, partners and council partners are crucial to the success of the Whistler Arts Council, everyone at the meeting applauded the outstanding dedication of executive director Doti Niedermayer. Special thanks were also given to event manager Kelly Clarke.

"Doti’s leadership and dedication is invaluable," said board member John Hewson. "She walked into a disaster and created a well organized organization. We want her to know our community appreciates everything she has done."

Now a professionally run organization, the Whistler Arts Council, getting ready to celebrate its 25 th anniversary next year, has come a long way from what Richoz describes as their "always in crisis" days. The arts council didn’t even have a home until 1999.

Continuing to grow, the board passed a resolution at the AGM to allow the 11-member council to expand to 15 in the future. Three board positions were filled at the AGM. Britt Germann, owner of The Path Gallery, was elected. Richoz, who served on the board for 23 years, was re-elected, as well as Laurie Vance, who previously served two years on the board.

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