Ken Blackburn

Oceanside Community Arts Council joins the fold

Last week's cultural forum brought together local representatives from arts, civic and social services organizations

For five years, the Oceanside Cultural Forum has brought together arts administrators to network and develop their skills and strategic plans.

And now, the local arts council is part of the proceedings.

The annual forum, held Thursday at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville, has been run since its inception by the Town of Qualicum Beach, said Patricia Huntsman, the town’s project consultant for cultural development. This year, however, the Oceanside Community Arts Council came on board as host partner for the daylong event.

“We’ve been building up to help the arts community grow,” said Heidi Abbott, vice-president of the OCAC. “Our new board was established last November and they feel very strongly about that. Now, we have built up our organizational capacity to be able to host an event like this.”

Last week’s cultural forum brought together local representatives from arts, civic and social services organizations, the very mix of groups with whom arts councils must collaborate to succeed, said Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council.

“You have to know your community, and the only way to do that is to get out there and talk to people,” said Blackburn, one of three panel presenters. “Do you have an economic development committee? Do you know your city council’s objectives? Do you know who’s working in the social services sector, and what are their objectives and goals?” Blackburn, who straddles the heritage community with a position at Campbell River Museum and the education community as an instructor with North Island College, said the approach is the same in all three areas.

“You don’t go to an organization asking for something,” he said. “You’re asking social services, ‘What can we do to help you achieve your mission? We’re offering art as a tool for you to achieve your objectives.'”

Blackburn was preceded by Kathy Ramsey, President of Arts B.C., who spoke about the arts and health and the benefits the arts provide for societal needs. She was followed by Michelle Benjamin, executive director of the Gabriola Arts Council, who shared the numerous programs her organization has established from visual arts to youth outreach, performing arts, festivals and even an arts-based cancer support group.

A Cultural Roundtable over the lunch period allowed attendees to share their own current and upcoming activities and network while sharing tips and asking questions.

“We want to invest in skills development for cultural groups,” said Huntsman. “We’re investing in public art, establishing an arts culture and promoting outreach.

“It’s exciting that Oceanside Community Arts Council is now building its own capacity to be involved in events like this. Because that’s the role of an arts council.”

OCAC’s Abbott agreed whole-heartedly.

“This is a great way to bring together all these people who are doing such great work and showing such innovation. We feel we should have a role,” Abbott said. “You see here today what Gabriola Island is doing, what Campbell River is doing. Why not Oceanside?”

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