Whistler's year in the arts 

A look back at the best art stories of 2011

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAWN GREEN - Big yearThe Barenaked Ladies' free concert at Whistler Olympic Plaza was one of the more successful arts events of the year. But they weren't all winners...
  • Photo By Dawn Green
  • Big yearThe Barenaked Ladies' free concert at Whistler Olympic Plaza was one of the more successful arts events of the year. But they weren't all winners...

The year started with a surprise set from Gene Simmons at Black's Pub alongside local songstress Rachel Thom. It seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year, in a number of ways — admired institutions trying to nestle a place alongside the malleable landscape of Whistler.

Or, perhaps more appropriately, old ideas confronting newer ones as local decision makers figure out how best to market Whistler's culture.

It was a pivotal year for the arts in Whistler. With the void left by the Olympics, festivals and large events became Whistler's focus. The RMOW had launched its Festival, Events and Animation program, most recognizable under its Whistler Presents brand. The inaugural Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler was a commercial flop, while the TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival and Whistler Film Festival each huge years.

It was a year when homogeneity in Whistler was challenged by the cultural tourism development strategy, under the guidance of Steven Thorne, author of the report A Tapestry of Place. Out of this, a new push for a cultural plan began, to the dismay of some.

This year also saw the return of some events and the disintegration of others. Huge acts played for free in the brand new Whistler Olympic Plaza while ticketed events suffered all over town.

It wasn't an easy year for anybody but, hey, it made for some interesting arts coverage

RMI changed face of Whistler culture

It paid for some of the Whistler Olympic Plaza construction, along with all the free concerts in the popular Whistler Presents live concert series.

But even if we put these projects aside, the $7.5 million in Resort Municipality Initiative money is still arguably the most important issue that Whistler arts and culture faced in 2011.

While the projects paid for through RMI funds — including the Rainbow Theatre renovation, the proposed amenity hub and Bayly Park — are not all related specifically to the arts, the impact of the money is shaping the face of Whistler. This, in turn, will affect local culture.

Naturally, anyone who's remotely engaged in local politics had something to say about how the money was spent. It became a pointed election issue, with many of the candidates weighing in via the 2011 Whistler Election Facebook page. What's arisen is not just a shift in the face of Whistler culture, but in its spirit as well, as locals grapple with the constant shifts Whistler faces.

What remains to be seen is how this will shape the aesthetic and artistic feel of the town in the coming years.

Cultural reports were all the rage

After 18 months in the making, Steven Thorne's cultural tourism report A Tapestry of Place was released in March, to mixed reviews. It was hailed by some as the future of Whistler's tourism industry, while others lambasted it as an expensive report with few answers and a pretentious title.

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