How Important Are the Arts for Nelson? Very.

sculpture

“QR” by Carl Schlichting

Last week, the British Columbia Alliance for Arts and Culture conducted a survey of candidates across BC, inviting us to share our views on arts, culture, and heritage issues facing the creative sector in our communities. I’ve copied and pasted my answers below. You can check out other Nelson candidates’ responses here.

Funding

Q: Will you commit to maintain or increase the current funding for arts, culture, and heritage in your community?

A: Yes

Advocacy

Q: Will you take an active role on behalf of your community in lobbying senior levels of government to maintain or increase levels of funding for the arts, culture and heritage?

A: Yes

Cultural Growth

Q: How can local governments, with increasing demands on their core service budgets, maintain or grow the cultural programs in their communities?

A: While local government must maintain current funding levels, as well as lobby for new reliable revenue streams, I think we must also look to the community for ways to engage them directly in the arts. Not merely as consumers, but as investors, volunteers, and even as creators themselves. There are many great example of this approach that we can look to. The Burning Man Festival has been doing this very successfully for 30 years and has spawned an entire movement based on this concept. And then there are city-driven projects like Vancouver’s City Studio which has brought a number of great community-based arts projects to fruition. This will require we step up our efforts to be more transparent and inclusive in how we nurture art and culture in Nelson.

Cultural Spaces

Q: Will you work to ensure access to affordable, sustainable cultural spaces for artists and arts organizations? If so, how?

A: Definitely. Nelson has an outstanding inventory of cultural institutions. I think it’s crucial we support efforts to help them grow and adapt as the needs of our arts community change.

For example, I think the plan currently under way at Kootenay Studio Arts for a Maker Space is inspired. Not only will it help filter more students into KSA’s programs, it will enable local artists, both professional and aspiring, to access tools and mentoring they might not otherwise have. This could become an incredible asset for artists in Nelson and deserves whatever support we can give it. Likewise, the effort to turn the Nelson Civic Theatre into a media centre is an excellent project with great potential for our community’s cultural and economic development.

Support can come in many forms. We can continue to help break down barriers between different arts institutions, throw our weight behind fundraising drives, and help link professional volunteers to projects whenever appropriate, to name but a few.

Cultural Tourism

Q: How do you propose to improve cultural tourism in your community, and to attract and retain artists and cultural workers?

A: Cultural tourism is alive and well in Nelson. At least it was in 2003 when we last commissioned an economic impact of the arts study, which found the gross economic impact to be a staggering $198 million. And I know this personally, because it was the strength of Nelson’s cultural community, in part, which attracted me to quit my job as an arts producer for CBC and move here. But I don’t think this means we don’t have to work to keep the arts economy healthy. Here’s what we can do to step up our efforts:

  • Nelson has an eclectic range of festivals taking place throughout the year. These festivals are run by tiny teams, often working with very little funding, so their focus must be relatively tight. It would be great to augment the offerings of these festivals with additional cultural components, similar (but smaller) to the cultural olympiad program which accompanies the Olympics. This could be done in part by getting all of Nelson’s cultural hubs on board with delivering content in support of festivals happening in town. (Rather than competing with that festival.)
  • The city should throw its support behind efforts to develop a signature festival for Nelson. The Edinburgh festival has been thrown around as one example we could follow, but I think we should also examine the Nuit Blanche model used in countless cities around the world as a way to get the general public to engage with contemporary art by activating all available arts venues, as well as city parks, alleys, and street corners.
  • Do a better job of getting the word out about what we are doing. This means working with Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism to better promote what we’re doing. This could mean supporting efforts on social media, to hiring photographers and videographers to show people everything going on in Nelson.
  • Bring more people to the table who are already doing it right. Take Shambhala for example. They grew a tiny festival into a globally recognized event which now draws nearly 10,000 people to the region. And they do it without grants or corporate sponsorship. What do organizations like this have to share with the rest of the arts community? How can the rising tide of their success be leveraged to float all boats?

Key Issues

Q: What do you feel is the single most important issue relating to arts, culture, and heritage in your community, and what action will you take to address it?

A: It’s tempting to say “funding”. But it’s bigger than that. We can have all the great spaces and programs we want, but if artists can’t afford to live here, we have a problem. So I think it’s the overall cost of living for artists in Nelson. This is a huge issue for which there is no silver bullet. But I think we can take some of the pressure off by making it easier for homeowners to create secondary suites. I would do this through bylaw revisions which make the suiting process difficult, and possibly by also offering incentives.

Participation

Q: How do you personally engage in the cultural life of the community? (e.g. involvement on committees, attending arts and culture events, etc.)

A: If we’re talking going to events… I don’t do much of that these days. I’m a parent with two young children and limited babysitting. But the countdown is on till I can get out again on a more frequent basis! Until then, I have contented myself to work behind the scenes:

  • Member of Nelson’s Cultural Development Committee (Nov. 2012 – March 2014)
  • CDC Member serving on Nelson’s Advisory Planning Commission (Nov. 2012 – March 2014)
  • Nelson Civic Theatre – Marketing committee, Facebook editor
  • Kootenay Co-op Radio – Marketing committee co-founder, Facebook editor
  • Founder Keep Nelson Weird – Focusing on stories celebrating Nelson’s unique character. 1600+ followers
  • Unofficial Nelson Facebook page editor – Serving more than 6600 followers, this page helps keep the community, expatriates, and visitors informed of what’s going on in and around our community, with a heavy arts focus.
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