Michael Audain proposes to build a museum or art gallery in Whistler to house his private collection. Who is Michael Audain?
Leave aside the fact that in 32 years Mr. Audain has built Polygon Homes into one of the most successful homebuilders and land developers in the Pacific Northwest. Leave aside the fact that Mr. Audain is an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia.
What is important for the purposes of this discussion is that Mr. Audain is chair of the Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation and the Audain Foundation. The Audain Foundation has donated over $5 million to the Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation to fund the Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, the Audain Emerging Artists Acquisition Fund and the Audain Prize Endowment Fund.
In short, Mr. Audain is not somebody who merely wants to build a monument to himself in Whistler in order to house a vanity art collection. Mr. Audain is a committed builder of the visual arts on a scale most in the Canadian arts community can only dream of, and he now proposes to build the arts in Whistler on a scale we may not see again for a very long time.
Historically, world-class mountain resorts have not marketed themselves simply as places to live the sporting life, even if only on vacation. Truly world-class mountain resorts market the fact that both their mountains and their communities are world class. Such resorts have the ability to market the sophistication of their community alongside their terrain, bars, restaurants and shopping. Davos has the World Economic Forum and the community amenities to match. Lillehammer has a living gallery museum at Fabrikken AS, the Lillehammer Art Museum and numerous other museums and galleries. Banff has the Banff Centre. Park City has Sundance. There is the germ of something great happening with the Whistler Forum at Brew Creek Centre. Mr. Audainís proposed facility will enhance the perception that Whistler is a world-class resort community.
There is no need to strike a council committee to ponderously search out the terrain for other art museum opportunities. In terms of a private donor with a proposal to construct and endow a museum to house a portion of their art collection, with opportunities to show works by other artists and from other collections, Mr. Audainís proposal will be as good as it gets.
Mr. Audain has made it clear that time is of the essence. Although Mr. Audainís credibility is impeccable and his proposal will greatly benefit Whistler, we should not throw caution to the wind. There needs to be a process.
Letís not waste each otherís time. There should be no community consultation on whether we should entertain this proposal. Council should make the decision, and make it quickly. The Hall and Mr. Audain should quickly negotiate a letter of intent laying out Mr. Audainís commitments and Whistlerís commitments. Advisory, non-binding community consultations on architecture and design, land-use considerations and facility programming should be firmly scheduled. A binding agreement should then be negotiated, which clearly and carefully documents the terms of the arrangement. The agreement should set out the terms upon which Whistler will supply the land and the terms upon which the land might revert to Whistler.
The way I see it, council promised to be open for business. Mr. Audainís proposal is a major test of councilís ability to deliver on that promise. The single greatest challenge council faces with this proposal is its ability to move the project through the process in a timely manner. Staff can sometimes be too enthusiastic in finding reasons to say no. Staff cannot be faulted for that, but they can be managed. If mayor and council set expectations early, staff will rise to the occasion and meet those expectations.
We dropped the ball with the World Economic Forum. Letís not drop the ball again.