By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke’s efforts to maintain a vibrant cultural sector greatly impressed MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the Opposition’s Critic for Tourism, Sports and the Arts, when he visited here Wednesday.
“These are challenging times for arts and culture in British Columbia so it it’s encouraging to come here and see new theatre and arts spaces,” he said, referring to the new artists’ coop, Art First, and the theatre space being constructed as part of the new high school.
Chandra Herbert, who toured local museums with MLA Norm Macdonald, said Revelstoke’s ability get things done is a model of other Interior communities. Rural communities, he said, typically have stronger local support for their arts and culture centres than most places in the Lower Mainland but few have Revelstoke’s range and depth. Not only do ordinary people support the arts, so does City Council, which has a formal Public Art Committee to guide its investment in public art.
Chandra Herbert himself prefers to use the word “investment” when he talks about public funding for the arts.
“Arts and culture are important to the overall economy,” he said. They create jobs, make our communities more vibrant and exciting places to visit and live and generally add to the overall quality of life. Because of that, the BC Liberals’ cuts to arts and culture funding are difficult to understand, particularly when they give so much lip service to their value.
“Either the government has a complete lack of understanding of what’s out here or maybe it does understand and what we see is what we get,” Chandra Herbert said.
During a discussion with arts community stakeholders at the Railway Museum he was told that’s especially galling when you consider that most artists make their living doing other things. (There are between 160 and 200 artists living in Revelstoke and I know only one who paints or sculpts full time. We all have day jobs that pay the bills and put food on the table. Artists create not only because it helps them pay their way through life but because they feel compelled to express themselves in novel ways and add to community life.)
Arts and culture are expensive. But they always have been. But what they give back to the community as a whole is of incalculable value. You can liken museums to a community’s collective memory. And here in Revelstoke the Visual Arts Centre and Revelstoke Theatre Company are the methods by which the community expresses itself. Cutting funding damages the community in very fundamental ways.