Heidi Abbott has only been the Oceanside Community Arts Council president since March, but she said she has plans for the council.
Abbott said she wants to encourage more communication and collaboration with the arts council and the artists.
“I want the community to know that we want to talk, we want to hear from everybody. We want to know who they are and how we can work together and use arts and culture to make Oceanside even better than it already is,” Abbott said.
“I mean there’s so many artists, we don’t even know who they all are,” she said. “So that’s a big job of an arts council too, is to try and determine who are they all, where are they, how can we network better with them, collaborate, build strength together. So that’s going to be a big job.”
To do that, Abbott said the OCAC is working on creating its own website.
“The McMillan Arts Centre has one for everything that happens here, but the arts council didn’t have an individual website,” Abbott said, who is a web developer. “So that’s a big step in sort of raising our profile and also being able to provide some more services to artists and organizations in the community.”
Abbott said she hopes the website will help to raise the profile of the arts council. The OCAC already has an active Facebook page Oceanside Community Arts Council.
Abbott has been with the board since 2013, first as an interim board member then as the vice-president.
“It was time. I thought to step up one more level and be the president,” she said.
The OCAC is working on more structural-type projects, Abbott said, and individual board members are chairing those committees to do all the work needed to get the projects going.
“We still feel like we’re young, but we’re getting there,” she said.
Abbott said the past two months have been really good, adding that the 12-member council is a really strong group with various topics of expertise.
“Because we have such a diverse board, there usually tends to be someone on the board who will take (a project) on because of their interest or they may have some expertise,” Abbott said. “They’re asking questions I wouldn’t have thought of, so the more people that come to us asking questions or wanting to investigate ideas, the better we’ll all get at this stuff.”
But although the board members have different areas of expertise, Abbott said the group still has that shared interest of art.
“At our first meeting, we did a little exercise for people to explain what drew them to doing this kind of work and it was similar with everybody. It had some sort of personal interest in the arts as well valued how good it is for a community to have a strong creative sector.”
She added that arts and culture is an important part of the community for their identity.
“I also believe that arts and culture is really a strong driver for economic development, health and all those things. It’s a good way for me to do that because arts councils should be central to that kind of work.”
Abbott has lived in the community since 1977, so she said she has a solid knowledge of Oceanside.
“I know a lot about Oceanside community. I have a lot of pride in Oceanside and care about it, so I’m really personally driven to help it in any way I can.”
Abbott said the OCAC meetings are open to the public. The arts council meetings are normally scheduled on the second Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Members Gallery at the MAC (133 McMillan St., Parksville).
“If there’s something they want the board to consider to add to the agenda, or present something to us, they just need to tell us and we can schedule that in. Basically, I want to hear more from everybody. We’re here, now, to listen and figure out what is it we’re all going to do together.”
Abbott said she has already had people starting to approach the council with program ideas, but she’s still looking for more community input.
“We’re ready. We’re just poised for it now. We’ve got everything in place, our foundation is set and we’re just ready to go now,” Abbott said. “I’m hoping that I can be somebody that people feel comfortable with. Call me, email me or anything like that.”
To get in contact with Abbott, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the council office at the MAC at 250-248-8185.