Facilitator Eden DuPont will be spearheading public input sessions. Photo: John Boivin

Rossland artists search for meaning in sports-minded mountain town

Council for Arts seeks input from public on value of culture

About 30 artists and art organizers met last week to talk about the future of the arts in Rossland.

They hope they can come up with ideas that will make the city more than just a place for skiers and mountain bikers.

“We’re looking at developing an arts plan for Rossland,” says Freya Phillips, the co-ordinator of the Rossland Council for the Arts and Culture. “So we’re looking at what strategic direction we want to go in.”

Phillips says the RCAC is hoping to get a wide range of community views about what art means for Rossland, where the city should be investing in the arts, and how to give it a more prominent role in the life of the city.

“So it’s about collecting diverse people’s views on the arts plan,” she says. “The plan aims to provide strategic direction for arts in our community and to guide the city as a cultural community. “

The first session was held last Wednesday at the Miners’ Hall. The group invited to launch the exercise included people from visual arts, dancers, writers, and arts organizers.

“It’s really about how we sustain the arts community,” says Phillips. “So it’s looking at the long term. We do need be more co-ordinated, how we can support art and artists more across-the-board.

That’s an uphill battle in a town famous for its downhill sports. So the group hopes to hear from more than just artists.

“We are more a recreation town, and we need to bring the diversity within the community,” she says. “And one of the visions that has been talked about is for Rossland to be recognized for its art from a tourism perspective.”

‘Not known for its art’

Facilitated by Eden Dupont, participants were asked to take part in both an online and real-world conversation about the future of the arts in Rossland. Besides live sessions, ThoughtExchange has donated the use of their online message forum to help the steering committee gather as many ideas as possible.

SEE: ThoughtExchange: Arts Planning Steering Committee Conversation

Dupont opened the meeting by asking the group to talk about supports and obstacles to the arts in Rossland.

While Rosslanders generally supported art events, organizations got breaks from city council to use venues, and people were seeing more public art around town, most said there were areas the community fell short in supporting the arts.

“It’s a city of skiers, bikers and hikers,” said one participant, to many nodding heads. “People come for the outdoors.”

“This is a town not known for its art,” said another.

That manifests itself in a lack of venue space for artists, volunteer burnout, spotty support from local tourism organizations, and “an overriding cultural attitude that resists paying artists a living wage.”

“People here support the arts, but they want a deal,” added one participant.

But identifying ingrained issues is only part of the exercise. Phillips says the arts council wants to provide guidance to the city for a greater presence for the arts in the Official Community Plan, which is due for updating next year.

Two more forums on the arts — which will give arts organizations in town, decision-makers, business owners and the general public a chance to have input — are planned for the fall.

After collecting all the online and real-life comments, a steering committee will boil them down and develop an arts plan by the spring, says Phillips.

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