An event planning calendar, an inventory of venues and skills, a bigger multi-purpose performance space and a push to B.C. Ferries to move visitors to the Coast more efficiently were just a few of the ideas broached at an arts meeting on Jan. 31.
Approximately 50 people representing up to 60 organizations turned out to the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt at the invitation of District of Sechelt arts coordinator Siobhan Smith to be part of what was billed as a Creative Conversation about the arts. Among the group were representatives of three municipal governments, tourism and Chamber reps and the local libraries, museum and arts related businesses.
During the lengthy round of introductions, the participants - many wearing more than one organizing hat - described at least two new festivals and several special event anniversary celebrations planned for this year.
Jane Davidson of the Festival of the Written Arts briefly explained a partnership with School District No. 46 to host a story-telling festival in May, and Cindy Buis of Artworks talked about a Sechelt by the Seashore festival in June.
Sue Milne of the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts commented on their plans for a 40th anniversary celebration, while Maggie Guzzi of the SC Dance Society rolled out their anniversary performance plans.
Artist Ed Hill pointed out the necessity for better event planning with the services of a paid coordinator to avoid having the timing of arts events conflict with sporting competitions or conferences.
"When we're organizing the outrigger races, for example, I want someone to advise me that it's not taking place on the same weekend as two other festivals," Hill said, adding that it makes for longer ferry line-ups and crowded tourist accommodation.
The Coast Cultural Alliance's on-line calendar of events (www.suncoastarts.com) was praised as an existing source of useful information, but Creative Conversation co-host Linda Williams, who keeps it up to date, noted that many organizations don't submit their details, and she often fills in the gaps herself. Update your websites, groups were advised.
Getting visitors to the Coast on B.C. Ferries is often a problem, particularly in the summer when multiple festivals are taking place. Several commented that keeping records of sales and the number of visitors who attend events is useful to determine peak times for ferries and traffic, and these statistics are also useful for grant funding.
Who's got what? It's time for an updated inventory of resources, skills and venues available, much like the data gathered for a previous cultural scan. Williams summarized some history of this previous research completed in 2007, the Sunshine Coast Regional Cultural Strategy.
"Out of it came a plan - a strategy," she said, that led to increased cooperation between the two arts supporting groups, the Coast Cultural Alliance and the Sunshine Coast Arts Council. It also ignited a regional cultural forum.
"It was quite brilliant," Williams said. "We are working together with a united voice for the arts."
Dancer David Holmes, producer of the successful, sold-out Nutcracker ballet production last December, wants to see a larger, multi-purpose venue for a bigger audience.
"It would be 500 to 800 seats minimum," he said, "and it would bring us on to the touring circuit for other performers."
Response was mixed to this idea with some questioning how it would be sustainable, and it was agreed that it would become a subject for another day.
Smith wants to host future Conversation at a later date and says they will be more directed to a particular topic or issue.
To add your organization's name to the mailing list, contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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