Art needs higher profile in city, say residents

Nanaimo should to make arts more visible within the community, according to some residents of the city.

The City of Nanaimo’s newly formed Culture and Heritage Department held its first open house of the year on Jan. 29 at the Nanaimo Art Gallery. The department displayed its most recent cultural plan and invited members to get to know staff and voice their opinions. Nanaimo resident Melanie Godel said she wants the City of Nanaimo to make art more noticeable within the community.

“Make the arts more visible in Nanaimo. Public arts and public events to showcase that art ... seeing people come together to celebrate it,” Godel said.

Willow Friday, owner of Iron Oxide Art Supplies, echoed similar thoughts.

“I would like to see more visual art happening in the moment outside, in the streets,” Friday said.

The department was created last November as part of a restructuring effort by city council. Culture and Heritage coordinator Chris Barfoot said the four-person department is putting the finishing touches on a new culture plan for the City of Nanaimo, which they hope to present to council on March 1.

“First of all, we want it to go to council and be recognized and adopted by council,” he said. “Our department is new and it is something that has never been done before.”

The culture plan was created in four phases and began in early 2012. With the help of public consultation, the plan lays out short- and long-term goals of the department.

“The culture plan really speaks to all the wonderful things that are happening in Nanaimo and what we can do as a department to either help those groups collaborate and really work with the resources that they have and share those resources,” Barfoot said.

Some of the purposes of the cultural plan include determining a clear vision for culture within the city as well as supporting and encouraging community wellness, cultural awareness and active living. The plan also calls for more public art, small-scale performance venues, public spaces in the north end and an expansion of the Port Theatre.

“Our goal is no matter what we do in the city, whether it be planning, whether it be development, that it is looked at through that culture and heritage lens,” Barfoot said.

Another area that the department focused heavily on is collaboration between artists within the region.

“I think the thing that we’ve struggled with and that this plan really speaks to is the connectivity and that collaboration ... connecting Gabriola to Nanaimo, making them feel a part of the community and making the people that live here feel a part of the community and feel proud to be here.

“The big one for us is the collaboration to enhance the quality of life,” he said. “Looking at everything through a cultural lens.”

Despite her concerns about the lack of visual art in Nanaimo, Godel agrees with the culture and heritage plan, which encourages all members of the artistic community to collaborate together with the city.

“I definitely agree with what they’re doing because a huge part of the arts is bringing artistic people together and really showcasing what they have to offer,” Godel said. “Once that is actually visible for the community, people will think, ‘OK, this is an artistic community’ instead of just the artistic people knowing that it is an artistic community.”

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