Wrangling the arts scene on the Sunshine Coast is a big job.
The District of Sechelt (DOS) hired Siobhan (pronounced Shiv’on) Smith earlier this year as an arts co-ordinator to act as a liaison between arts and culture groups on the Coast and the District’s arts, culture and heritage advisory committee.
“We’re not a whole arts department like in some cities,” Smith said. “But in supporting a job like this, the District recognizes the value of such a position.”
Liaison is important, but the goals of her part-time job also include supporting and promoting various groups, and particularly promoting Sechelt as an arts and culture destination.
Over the last decade the Coast’s arts scene has been rushing in that direction.
This year the District of Sechelt will celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of Canada’s largest literary festivals, the Festival of the Written Arts (FOWA), and will join in a host of other cultural activities including a Sechelt-instigated arts festival and exhibitions at the Sunshine Coast Arts Council’s gallery.
Smith is no stranger to the arts. She has worked and volunteered at the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at the University of British Columbia and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver, among others.
Her roles have included curator and author of essays on First Nations and contemporary art. Since moving to the Coast in 2008 you might have seen her teaching yoga at the Gibsons and Area Community Centre or working in the library. The arts co-ordinator role is a busy one. Finding each other has been a challenge, Smith notes. Coming from Vancouver she has noticed that Coast groups and businesses are slower to build a web presence here, important in this age of Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes web promotion is out of date or is difficult to find on search engines.
“There’s lots more room for things to grow and develop in that area,” she said.
A peek at the forthcoming calendar of events is stimulating. There’s something happening almost every weekend on the Coast through October.
For example, Smith points to a cluster of activities in August that will lure visitors here. During the Aug. 16 to 19 weekend FOWA holds its showcase of Canadian authors, the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market operates on Saturday, the Arts Council hosts its annual fundraising Hackett Park Craft Fair over two days and at the Seaside Centre, a group of 11 artists will show their work titled Power of Paint.
We’re not finished yet. In Madeira Park that same weekend, the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival unfolds and in Roberts Creek on Aug. 18 all are invited to enjoy Creek Daze.
An event that Smith will have a hand in organizing is a fall workshop in volunteer management. The District usually holds Sechelt Culture Days on the last weekend of September. In previous years this open house has taken on the appearance of a mini arts trade show, and one year it brought together artists for a Coast-wide symposium on issues. This year the program is different.
Along with opportunities for hearing about arts events and networking, the DOS has invited an arts organizer to give a free workshop on how to train your volunteers and how to keep them. Volunteers need to be treated as respected employees, Smith points out. An issue of concern on the Coast has been how to recruit new volunteers when the former core group wants to retire, as happened with the Gibsons Landing Fibre Arts Festival.
The second big cluster of activities takes place in October when the third annual Art Crawl brings thousands of visitors to the Coast. Last year the Sechelt Arts Festival moved its August date to October to tie in with the Art Crawl and the result was beneficial for both groups.
“We were competing with other events for parking, vendors and advertising,” Smith said, “so decided to move it to the shoulder season.
The eighth annual festival was a success with more than 2,200 people enjoying a showcase of music, visual and performance art.
The arts advisory committee will once again organize a juried art show over two weekends in October to coincide with the Art Crawl. For more about the Sechelt Arts Festival see: www.secheltartsfestival.com.