Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vancouver and the Arts

In the past couple of weeks, the incumbent mayor's campaign has finally started to pay some attention to the state of arts and culture in Vancouver. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I am duly flattered. I've been working with and talking about supporting and celebrating Vancouver's arts and culture for quite some time now--it's a pleasure to welcome Mr. Pollard to the party.

Vancouver has the potential and the resources to be a community thriving with performing, visual and cultural arts -- and with that, could be seen as a unique destination for enthusiasts and tourists. Look to other nearby locations like Leavenworth, Washington, or Ashland, Oregon. For two years now, I’ve been speaking to the need for returning our local arts community back to center stage with a sincere commitment. We need more than "lip service" if anything is to survive and thrive.

It’s clear we have a wealth of local artists, performers and culture right here in our own community. Unfortunately, leadership over the past 14 years has shown no interest in nourishing and nurturing our local vibe.

I’m thrilled that the incumbent is now taking notice. It's amazing how election season brings about convenient changes of heart. But to do so in a tangible and impactful way will take more than a nod to the arts community and the simple acknowledgement of an Arts Commission.

Those performers and artists that have struggled to keep their businesses open over the past 14 years can speak to this.

The City once had such a commission, but it was underfunded, understaffed, and unsupported. Then it was summarily dismissed when it didn't produce what leadership wanted to hear.

What we are currently hearing from the incumbent is a half-hearted proposal to ‘re-recognize’ an Arts Commission, help them become a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and offer extremely limited staff support.

To fully realize the opportunities we have here in Vancouver for arts and culture, an Arts Commission is going to need some ‘teeth’, some real support and resources to build a strong foundation for which to be successful. I will recommend more than an acknowledgement, and request that the business and development interests meet with the arts community and City to strategize about moving forward collectively and with the resources necessary to allow for the viability of an Arts Commission and the flourishing of our local arts and culture.

Also, I'm pleased to hear that the Vancouver Downtown Association has taken interest in my idea about closing off lower Main Street to vehicles and allowing for a street fair during the weekends. I've experienced street fairs during my travels to many other cities -- they appear to be hugely successful for promoting local community and business. Most recently, I was in Chicago attending one of five street fairs occurring that particular weekend. There were tens of thousands of visitors enjoying food, music and buying things like artwork, crafts and sculptures from local artists. I envision Vancouver having its own version of these fairs, or even an 'institution' like Beale Street, in Memphis, Tennessee--but with the very specific, unique talent and spirit of Vancouver, Washington.

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