Thursday 29 September 2011

Mayor's Arts Visioning Committee - Edmonton as a Cultural Hub

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a Discovery Dialogue for Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel's Arts Visioning Committee last August 10.  Co-chaired by Dianne Kipnes and Brian Webb, the committee was tasked to understand and develop how Edmonton can use arts and culture to promote citizens' pride in the city through 2035 and beyond.  In the kick-off event "Think Tank for the Arts" last June that brought together artists, entrepreneurs, activists, performers, students, developers and community leaders, Mayor Stephen Mandel remarked that "Arts and culture form the very heart and spirit of a community, and are the things from which great cities are made.  I believe that Edmonton's vibrant arts community, knack for creativity and innovation, and unique multicultural character position us for success. This Think Tank event is about listening and working with the community to start to pull together an integrated and coordinated plan to raise the profile of arts in our city."

The Discovery Dialogues were the next round of consultations with various sectors of the community undertaken by the committee over the summer. Present were Councilor Ben Henderson, Dick Wong of the City Arts Council, Brian Webb and John Mahon, Executive Director of the Edmonton Arts Council. There were also representatives from various cultural communities engaged in the different arts - dance, music, opera, literature and the visual arts. The discussion centered around concepts and sharing of experiences on gaps in the Edmonton arts community, strategies, integration of arts and the business community, possible arts venues/locations, mentorship program, opportunities for emerging but mature artists, networking opportunities, festivals, free or low cost space, more quality performing venues, grants and other sources of revenue, artist recognition and integration of the arts further into the civic fabric.

The next round will be business, design and architecture stakeholder conversations on transforming and repurposing identified areas. These include the Rossdale Power Generation Station and riverfront plaza, MacEwan Centre for the Arts and Communications, Quarters area, downtown area and airport lands. Topics will include developing and planning the details about the amenities, programs and services that can be offered in these locations. The report with recommendations is targeted to be submitted by the Arts Visioning Committee to City Council by end of the year.

Ida Beltran-Lucila with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel

It is gratifying to see that in these times of financial uncertainty, city government is pulling out all the stops in raising the profile of the arts and elevating it across the city, whereas other governments may be inclined to relegate it to the bottom of the priority list. After all, in the words of Mayor Mandel, "If we truly want to focus on attracting business and creating a superior quality of life for Edmontonians, we must start with the creative industry of our citizens... Opening our city up to the kind of creative excellence and energy that drives the arts industry is good business.  The arts can be a valuable economic driver for region."  Indeed, Edmonton will prove itself to be a good place for people, especially artists, to be.

* this article was written for Pinoy Times, published in September 2011 issue