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WOW 2017: The arts are a key piece to a community's social fabric

Spin-off benfits include job creation and economic growth

Goldstream News Gazette - Katherine Engqvist, April 30, 2017

WOW 2017: The arts are a key piece to a community's social fabric
A participant in a previous Mother's Day Paint-In event takes in the beauty in one of the gardens that surrounds Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University in Colwood.
Image courtesy of the West Shore Arts Council.

There’s no arguing that the arts can play a key role in well-rounded communities. But when thinking about arts and culture, many residents’ first thought isn’t how it connects with the local economy.

“The arts are important to a community as it is an opportunity for artists to engage in self expression and the public to experience self reflection and awareness of the world around them,” said West Shore Arts Council president Laura Davis. “It’s part of a healthy social fabric of the community.”

With a background in finance, Davis noted a vibrant arts community can add to the economic growth of the West Shore. While it’s not necessarily a direct correlation, she explained there are many spin-off benefits such as the creation of jobs from facilities. A dedicated facility or annual event can also become a destination and will attract people from across the region, who usually spend money in other areas of the community while here.

Run by a volunteer board, the non-profit serves all five West Shore municipalities with the objective of creating space for arts programming that continues to benefit this growing population. “We went from a $9,000 a year budget to an $84,000 budget next year,” Davis said. While a majority of funding comes from grants, she noted the City of Langford is also one of their largest contributors. “They’ve really stepped up to the plate,” she said, adding they’ll be looking at expanding their presence in the city.

“We look for opportunities to engage the public in the arts – that’s really our mandate,” Davis said, explaining that includes all forms of art from visual to performance and everything in between. “We even do a speaker series.”

The West Shore Arts Council hosts two main events every year. “It’s easier to have annual events,” Davis noted, as it helps create a strong attraction. The first takes place next month. “We partner with Royal Roads to do the Mother’s Day Paint-In … We’re really present there.”

The second big annual event is the Light Up the Hills lantern tour that is presented by the Council and Westhills that takes place in the fall in Langford. Davis noted that’s a big attraction for residents across the region and not just those living on the West Shore.

While not all programming is as big as those two events, a number of smaller initiatives are also attracting the public’s attention and Davis noted they host at least two smaller events every month. “We (also) try to link the public with the arts organizations that exist on the West Shore … We do a lot of calls to artists.” A number of these are geared towards emerging artists to help them gain experience showcasing their work in a public setting.

Another program that’s geared towards at risk youth is making strides. Five youth were selected to form a band and receive a weekly lesson with their instruments and lessons provided free of charge. “I’m hoping we can make it bigger,” Davis said moving forward. “It’s lovely to see them together … They’re like a little family.”

But for performing arts, one of the biggest challenges groups face is finding an appropriate venue. While the Council works with the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa to host the Victoria Symphony, Davis noted they don’t have a venue on the West Shore large enough to host the entire symphony.

But they’re working hard to change that and are working with other organizations to explore properties and other options to create an arts and culture centre on the West Shore.


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