Our community deserves arts

Editor:

Re: Towers would reduce sprawl: Villeneuve, Nov. 12.

Editor:

Re: Towers would reduce sprawl: Villeneuve, Nov. 12.

In response to the interview with Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve, I think it is important at this juncture to bring in the topic of identity when discussing development of the Semiahmoo Town Centre.

What is the identity of South Surrey that fits best with the proposal and strategic plan?

I am an arts advocate living in South Surrey. I agree with Villeneuve that our arts community is underserved.

And I believe the arts are critical to the relationship between cultural identity and identity of place.

Since Surrey is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, the issue of density is critical to address.

For years, I have intently sought to identify evidence of an arts district in South Surrey, to no avail. Critics point out proximity of White Rock arts amenities in their arguments to nix this proposal. Although there is a natural association, White Rock and Surrey are distinct municipalities. It would be like arguing “you can’t have a gallery in Cloverdale because there is one in Langley,” or “you can’t have a theatre in Whalley because there is one in Delta.”

I attended both presentations at the information evening on Oct. 22 and was heartened by the waves of excitement from the diverse members of the arts community about the potential of the proposed arts amenities. Numerous arts colleagues have volunteered hundreds of hours to define what would work well to fill the cultural void that so many of us lament.

So, I take exception to the “a bit of a fob” statement made by Semiahmoo Residents Association president David Cann.

We also have tried to imagine potential spin-offs and supporting business opportunities that could create a vibrant cultural hub.

Here are questions I think should be in the discussions:

What is the big picture vision for cultural and town-centre planning in South Surrey? Many people I know identify more with the arts in Vancouver and beyond than in Surrey. How many and how often do South Surrey residents go to Vancouver or even travel abroad to satisfy their art longings?

What would keep us invested here and draw in a broader range of artists to live and work in South Surrey? With Surrey City Hall moving north, what about us?

Yes, we are long overdue with transit upgrades, but without a pedestrian-friendly cultural hub and a vibrant, identifiable town centre, why would people stop and visit 152 Street beyond shopping and banking?

Or is it that improved transit would better give us the identity only of a bedroom community that commutes to Vancouver or other parts of Surrey?

We deserve better.

Virginia Gillespie, Surrey