White Rock council had a friendly reception for two arts-oriented initiatives for the city, presented at the July 22 regular meeting.
Semiahmoo Arts board member Pat Higginbotham and new executive director Ulee Maschaykh appeared seeking support for a ‘Mural City’ proposal for White Rock; while Gary Gumley of Community Clicks Media Group Inc. requested a collaborative corporate report for consideration in September on the feasibility of a ‘Festival of Lights’ event which, he proposed, would provide a spectacular and colourful lighting display on the waterfront during the Christmas season – with no funding requested from the city.
Both presentations cited spin-off benefits to business as part of their rationale.
“Research has shown that certain intangible qualities of social dynamics, more than development of material infrastructure, contribute immensely to the development of the spirit of local entrepreneurship, a reputation for cutting-edge novelty and a culture of excellence and competitiveness in a city,” Maschaykh said.
“Which is why we think White Rock would be the ideal place to become a mural city,” she added. “Murals in a city can be part of its artistic and economic development.”
The stakeholders for a White Rock mural project, she said, would be the community, artist groups, businesses and building owners.
Maschaykh suggested that guided workshops could identify stories and memories White Rock residents have about local landmarks that could become the subject of murals, after which staff could issue a call for artists to paint them in locations across the city.
She also suggested the artists could be filmed and interviewed during the painting process as a means of further promoting the project and the city, and that the initiative would “foster community spirit, highlight the beauty of White Rock, support the artists and their work…create harmony out of entropy (and) improve businesses by attracting people to come from out of town, and for White Rock to become a destination.”
“Art heals, art inspires, art is aliveness, and given the number of outstanding artists in our community it seems the perfect opportunity to enliven White Rock for both residents and visitors,” Higginbotham said, while asking the city to consider making an ongoing cultural and funding commitment to the idea, and also consider an annual, curated street art festival, “so that as new structures appear in our community, art is continually replenished.”
“I, too, believe that murals are an integral part of society,” Mayor Darryl Walker commented. “We have a number of them around the community that not only need protecting, but we need to enhance that by looking at different ways of doing it.”
“The possibilities for a tourism initiative are absolutely astounding,” Coun. David Chesney said, adding that developers could be approached at early stages to incorporate murals in their proposals.
The possibility of attracting outside visitors as well as residents – particularly in winter and ‘shoulder’ months – was also a factor in Gumley’s presentation for a ‘Festival of Lights’.
He told council he believes a trial run festival could be in operation as early as this winter, (starting on Friday, Dec. 6 and ending on Sunday Jan. 3, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily) and that funding sources, already lined-up for the project, could mean that it can be done without significant cost for the city.
He described it as “a magical holiday-themed walkway along the promenade to the White Rock pier” inspired by the Lights at Lafarge Lake attraction held in Coquitlam, which, he noted, drew more than 100,000 visitors to its inaugural event in 2016.
“In 2018,” he said, “over 240,000 people walked around Lafarge Lake over 12 weeks.”
Gumley suggested that in a second year, the event could be extended for as long as from Halloween to Spring Break, and that, with LED lights, the lighting mood could change depending on the season or time of year, or according to a specific festive occasion.
The inaugural event could start at either Finlay or Balsam Street on East Beach with displays stretching all the way to the pier, he said, complimenting new lighting planned for the White Rock Museum area.
The event would draw not only visitors from the Semiahmoo Peninsula, but also from the Fraser Valley, Washington State and around the world, Gumley added.
The budget for the Lights at Lafarge Lake is approximately $100,000 for the 12 week-event.
“It is anticipated that the White Rock festival would cost $50,000 in a first year, but an application for funding from the (federal) Canadian Experiences Fund has been submitted, which may result in most of the cost of staging the event being paid for in years one and two,” Gumley said. “No funding is being requested from the City of White Rock.”
A motion for staff to participate in a collaborative report – due by the first council meeting after the summer break (Sept. 9) was moved by Coun. David Chesney and passed unanimously.
“If you’re going to start this this year, time is going to be of the essence,” Chesney said.