Active arts community put in spotlight

Cultural scan, map take stock of Pemberton area's assets

Meg Gallup thinks being in Pemberton has helped shape her pottery artworks in a number of ways: the people she has met and the feedback they've given; the qualities of the rural landscape, enhancing the colours she has chosen; and, interestingly, the isolation the valley has offered.

Living in Pemberton has helped her as an artist by "being isolated from other potters, and therefore my work evolved on its own," Gallup told a group of listeners on Tuesday (July 13) at the Pemberton Museum's Toonie Tea and Tales.

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Gallup and painter Karen Love spoke at the first such event of the summer about their experiences as artists who live and work in Pemberton.

Love, the founder of the Pemberton Arts Council, said landscape art only entered her repertoire when she moved to Pemberton, finding herself captured by the open, uncluttered spaces, vivid colours of the valley and recurring elements in her life here - the sweeping views of Mount Currie and hay bales, for example.

A portrait of Pemberton's artistic and cultural character was recently captured in the Arts and Cultural Community Scan commissioned by the Village of Pemberton, and a draft of the document went to the Village council at its July 6 meeting.

The scan contains an extensive roundup of all the cultural organizations, facilities and events in Pemberton and the surrounding area, touching on everything from the visual, performing and literary arts, crafts and traditional cultural creations, and heritage activities to some of the outdoor recreation elements that are so much a part of Pemberton culture.

The scan was compiled by Susan Medville of Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd. through research such as interviews with community members and visits to facilities and group meetings.

In its conclusion, the report finds that "Pemberton and the surrounding area has a large number of individuals per capita who are working visual arts and crafts people," including more than 40 artist members of the Pemberton Arts Council and more than 130 Lil'wat Nation members who are active craftspeople and performers.

"Cultural events taking place in the community are well attended and supported by the local population," the report states, adding that at least half of the local businesses support arts and culture by hosting displays and sponsoring events.

The report also observes "a few notable gaps," starting with the lack of a dedicated public gallery in the community - though there are several spaces that exhibit art on a temporary basis, and the museum's store sells work from a variety of local artists. The report notes that the Pemberton Arts Council is working on this issue with the Art Barn and ideas about a co-op gallery.

The report also notes the challenges with public funding and the size of the volunteer pool resulting from the size of the community, the absence of music education in the curriculum at Pemberton Secondary and the lack of a permanent stage for performing arts shows. The absence of integration of arts and culture into the Village's public works, such as benches and bike racks, is also noted, as is the lack of a policy for preservation of heritage buildings at the Village and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

Several local artists contacted by The Question had a public gallery high on their wish lists for the future of the active arts community, alongside ideas such as more participation in projects and additional public areas for displays of local artwork.

Painter Lynn Pocklington, vice-chair of the approximately 100-member arts council, has seen "a lot of growth (and) a lot of momentum" in the local arts community. She greeted the arts and cultural scan as a useful tool for informing everyone about what is present in the community, and supporting funding applications.

She said there has been a plan for how to run the Art Barn, the downtown Pemberton Valley Dyking District building operated by the arts council, but the challenge has been getting local artists organized to participate during the busy summer months. With no insulation, the Art Barn can only open in summer.

Pocklington said it's been a challenge to find someone who would be able to commit to a whole summer of organizing the facility, but a few have shown interest.

"We're hoping to have a show every weekend. That was our big goal so people get used to seeing it open," she said. There are hopes of getting a regular schedule rolling with shows this month.

Pocklington has also pursued the idea of starting a co-op gallery run by local artists, which was one of the goals she had in mind when she joined the arts council around the time of its formation four years ago. The idea has supporters, and she feels it could be viable.

A facility like that could help meet the need of the visitors and people Pocklington has overheard in coffee shops, wondering where they can go to buy some art or see local artists.

"There's a lot of artists in this town - I think right now a lot of people lay low and do their thing, they don't get their work out there too much. It'd be great to see an avenue to be able to show it and get it out there," said Chris Ankeny, photographer and Mount Currie Coffee Co. proprietor.

"I'd like to see more support for the arts, definitely, in the area. The scan was a step forward so everyone in the community is aware of what's here," Pocklington said.

The information in the scan has been used to create an interactive digital map of the area's cultural assets, which should be unveiled in the coming weeks, said Jill Brooksbank, the Village's communications coordinator.

The 2010 Legacies Now Creative Communities program, through which the Village received half of the money for the $10,000 cultural scan and map, funds cultural mapping, planning and tourism strategies with a vision of supporting long-term cultural development.

Brooksbank said the Village has applied for a grant for the next step: a cultural plan.

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