Whistler residents brainstorm ideas for the future of arts at the resort 

A workshop Tuesday collected ideas to shape the town's cultural offerings

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Around 30 people attended a workshop Tuesday night (Jan. 15) to weigh in on arts, culture and heritage in Whistler and offer suggestions on how each can be improved.

The session was just one part of an effort to collect data for a cultural plan that will be submitted to the RMOW and the Whistler Arts Council to help direct the future of arts in Whistler. "This is the end of the data collection phase," said Brian Johnston with Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants (PERC), the consulting company writing the report.

"We've got (an online) survey going on and we've had 300 returns and we've talked to a couple dozen local arts organizations and artists and we have this (workshop). We try to have different techniques where we tap different people. There's a good breadth and, all-in-all, I'm satisfied it's a good cross-section of the community."

At Tuesday's workshop, participants wrote on big sheets of paper the kind of arts and culture experiences they think should be created in Whistler, along with solutions to current barriers to those experiences. Some popular suggestions included developing an artist hub or hang out, coordinating advertising for all of Whistler's "great events," a theatre festival and artist gallery with work spaces, to name just a few.

For jewelry maker Tess Klein, creating a space for local artists to sell their products without a storefront is a key concern. "We have a lot of local artists and there's no real outlet for (them) to show and sell in Whistler because it's against the bylaws," she says. "At the farmer's markets we can because its something that's been grandfathered down, but other places, I've tried several times before to start something and it gets shut down by the bylaws and council."

Klein says she believes there's a demand for original, local art both from visitors and local consumers. "They want to take a piece of Whistler home," she says. "They want something authentic and local."

Longtime Whistler artist Stephen Vogler said while there is artist funding from several different sources, more of it needs to trickle down to the artists. "I think there's a lot of artist funding, both municipal, RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) and FE & A (festivals, events and animation) and money that comes from the province, but municipal arts money can end up in the administrative support. I'd just like to see a bit more of it opened up so artists could apply for grants and get started on projects. Then (we'll) see a blossoming of the local arts scene here."

As echoed on the sheets of paper, Vogler also says affordable space for artists is important, along with space for educational workshops, collaborative projects and ways to connect Whistler artists with their counterparts in Vancouver and beyond. "All that requires a space, a hub, affordable space because artists don't have much cash," he says. "Places like The point Artists-Run Centre that a bunch of us are trying to secure would be really useful."

Johnston and the consultants will take the data, along with online surveys, which closes for input on Jan. 20, and compile it into a draft plan, which will go through another round of public consultations before a final version is submitted to council. To take the survey visit artswhistler.com/say-something.

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