Nanaimo's cultural plan priority for department

Suzanne Samborski is moving into a new stage in her career with the City of Nanaimo as the new head of the city’s first ever Culture and Heritage department.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Suzanne Samborski is moving into a new stage in her career with the City of Nanaimo as the new head of the city’s first ever Culture and Heritage department.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Taking action on Nanaimo’s culture plan is top of the list for Nanaimo’s first independent culture and heritage team.

A four-person culture and heritage department will kick off its two-year term this January with an aim to zero in on the city’s budding cultural plan. It will be the first time culture has broken away from parks and recreation and merged with heritage – a move orchestrated by top bureaucrat Ted Swabey in a major shake up earlier this year.

According to city officials, the change recognizes the growing importance of arts and culture to the community and the need to prioritize efforts to build on its momentum.

The sector alone generates more than $150 million in economic activity and upwards of 1,300 jobs.

By bringing together culture and heritage, the hope is the city will not only build relationships and leverage knowledge in the arts, heritage and culture community, but focus in on a cultural strategy that would have otherwise been addressed from the corner of desks in “little bits and pieces,” said Suzanne Samborski, the head of the new division.

The creation of a new department isn’t expected to come without challenges, including potential debate around culture priorities for the next 24 months.

But the team is excited to get started on the new tasks ahead, said Samborski.

“To keep moving forward on the heritage plans and implement the culture plan ... it’s really exciting and then you kind of go ‘oh my gosh there is so much there,’ she said. “The most daunting piece of it is the expectations everyone will have of what we can do, including ourselves.”

The new division was announced in late November as part of a series of staff cuts and department mergers. According to Swabey, culture and heritage was a good fit and ensures culture and the new cultural plan are made a priority. With  culture highlighted as an economic driver in a recent impact study, it’s also a chance to build on arts and culture, he said.

The primary focus of 2014 will be helping politicians finalize the cultural strategy – a document seeking to grow the arts and culture community through efforts like increased grants and a mentorship programs for creative entrepreneurs. The culture and heritage department will also be juggling its regular activities while outlining priority actions for the cultural plan.

The City of Nanaimo has yet to announce a budget for the department to work within but dollars could come from the parks and recreation budget. The city also hasn’t decided whether to merge the culture committee and heritage commission.

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