If attendance at a special forum Monday night was anything to go by, the residents of Qualicum Beach really do want to make culture count.
The cultural forum was held at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre and was one of the first steps towards the town coming up with a comprehensive strategy to promote arts and culture in the community.
The forum, which kicked off with a performance by the Qualicum Beach Dance Academy, was moderated by Rob Roycroft and presented by consultant Patricia Huntsman.
“This is your plan,” Huntsman said to the approximately 150 people in attendance. “It’s not just the town’s plan. We are just getting started.”
Huntsman then laid out the details of the first step in the process, which was a cultural assessment, which outlined what groups, organizations and facilities are active in the community and how they work together — or don’t.
To this end, Huntsman said she met with 238 local artists and organizations.
The next step, she told the standing room only crowd, is to decide where the community wants to go with their cultural plan — and only then get into the details of how to get there.
To this end, she said extensive consultation with the community over the summer showed a demand for more diversity in arts and cultural opportunities in order to more fully represent the community.
As well, she said there is a need for increased arts and cultural programming that are inter-generational, specifically, youth, children and family-focused.
One of the key findings, she said, was a need for cultural groups to collaborate — both with each other and the business community and other partnering organizations.
“This is an untapped gold mine of opportunity,” Huntsman said.
“When you put artists and business people in the same room, great things happen. There is a lot of untapped potential out there.”
Another need, she continued, is to more clearly define the role of local government in arts and culture development, as well as better promotion of artistic and cultural events. She said there is an urgent need to develop organizational capacity within the existing arts and culture groups, noting that many of them don’t have a strategic plan, have problems with recruitment and don’t have succession planning for their boards of directors.
“If they are going to be sustainable, this needs to be addressed,” she said.
Finally, she said there is a strong demand for a performing arts venue and an outdoor performing arts venue.
After that, the residents — many of them members of arts and culture groups — have their say.
The roundtable discussion that followed asked each of the 10 tables in the room to come up with five key words that should be reflected in the cultural plan, as well as come up with their view of what Qualicum Beach should be known for over the next five years.
Many of the responses covered similar ground, calling for multi-generational opportunities and diversity in the arts and culture opportunities in Qualicum Beach.
As well, there was a call to make the town “more than an eight-hour community, with the uptown core staying somewhat active after 6 p.m.
“We want to be known as a multi-faceted cultural jewel and work towards achieving our vision of being a multi-generational hub,” said Netanja Waddell, who reported on her table’s deliberations.
Other ideas that came forward included seniors mentoring young people in the artistic community, setting up community credits for volunteers and making Qualicum Beach known for one unique thing that sets it apart from other mid-Island communities.
The multi-generational theme came up repeatedly, with several tables stressing the need to cater to more than just the community’s retirement community.
Having some form of central planning agency to promote events through social media, websites and other means was also popular.
The forum was just the first of many, Huntsman said.
The next session is slated to be held some time towards the end of January.