If White Rock doesn’t get serious about growing the waterfront city as an arts destination, it will never be an arts destination.
That was the sentiment at city hall following discussion last week of recommendations – including funding for a full-time arts manager – put forward by the city’s Arts Economic Task Force.
“A lot of things have happened in this city, they rise up and then they die,” Coun. Louise Hutchinson said. “Until we, as a city, say we are an arts city… we will never grow as an arts community.”
Task force chair Geoff Giffin agreed. If city officials don’t set the tone and make arts and culture a priority, “the rest of the community won’t believe it’s important,” he said.
Giffin was at city hall Nov. 26 to present the Arts Economic Strategy and Implementation Plan. He and 11 others were appointed by the mayor in the spring to come up with it, as a framework to developing the arts as an economic generator for the city.
Over four months, the group – comprising nine arts representatives, two city staff and one non-voting councillor – researched ‘best practices’ and consulted stakeholders.
The strategy, says a report by the city’s director of leisure services, “identifies the challenges and threats facing local artists and art businesses, as well as the opportunities strengthening the local economy through increased arts activity and events.”
“It is believed that implementation of the plan will greatly enhance the local economy,” Eric Stepura writes.
Stepura notes that $30,000 in related funding has been proposed for 2013 in the city’s draft five-year financial plan: $10,000 each for consultant fees to assist with a five-year cultural strategy, to assist community art and cultural groups to organize and host a major annual arts and culture festival, and for organizing and hosting a signature arts and culture event during non-peak times of the year.
The task force is recommending another $111,000 be considered, including $86,000 for a manager.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin said during discussion of the city’s financial plan that he wasn’t sure “one person devoted to that role is really practical in White Rock.” He encouraged staff to look at combining it with other roles.
Coun. Larry Robinson suggested it is something “we put on the wish list for further discussion.”
Giffin said the role is vital to making White Rock the “world-class arts and cultural destination” it has the potential to be. That vision can be achieved within 15 years, he said.
Giffin said that while the community has a higher-than-average population of people whose lives are dedicated to the arts, there is a perception that if somebody here is talented, “they must be from somewhere else.”
He encouraged the city to “use what we have here,” noting “it doesn’t have to be from somewhere else to be excellent.”
Giffin also encouraged the city to stop spending money on consultants to examine the issue, and invest instead in a manager.
Council voted unanimously to refer the funding request to staff to be prioritized as part of a leisure services department review.
Monday, director of financial services Sandra Kurylo recommended that if the position is created, it should also be tasked with community recreation.