The Arts Council recently asked candidates to answer the questionWhat would I do to support arts, culture and heritage in Abbotsford?
Following is my answer.
I believe that our communities are one of the strongest assets of Abbotsford and these include the arts, culture and heritage communities. It is these communities, comprised of our residents who are passionate, giving and so capable, that can accomplish so much good for our City.
I believe that we need to engage, support and empower our communities so that they can realize their contributions to our City. First I will work engage the communities in a real and meaningful way to create a framework that works for them. I will work towards having the City support this framework. For too long, the communities have been used as a support for City Hall often with their hard work and passion disappearing into brick tower. I believe this needs to change. I will then work to empower the communities so they can realize their contribution. This means that the communities will be given the responsibility and authority they need.
I realize many of you may be thinking “This sounds really good but what does this mean in reality.” What it looks like is first dependent on participation by the rest of council (so be careful whom you vote for) and what framework the communities create during the engagement. Here are some of what I would support.
Moving the responsibility for heritage protection to the Planning department. Development (and demolition) should be required to provide a heritage assessment as part of their application. These assessments should be done by the heritage community and the MSA Museum Society.
Creating a community committee as part of the Abbotsford Arts Council to define a public art policy and be responsible for selection of public art.
Abbotsford Cultural Centre
Moving to putting it under a community elected board with greater access by cultural groups. The Abbotsford Cultural Centre is currently managed by the Reach Society under a contract that expired last spring. The Society’s constitution states that all directors are appointed by the City and it’s management contract requires all members be appointed by the City.
Providing seed funding and support for a black box theatre with the theatre placed under the management of a society for performing arts.
The creation of Discovery Centre that celebrates our heritage. More tourists include heritage in their travel activities that any other activity except shopping. It would be a great attraction to our City.
More commercial venues for music and entertainment are needed. Restrictive bylaws need to be amended so that we have more opportunities play.
The City identified about $1.6mil in culture funding last year. About $895k for interest and amortization on the Abbotsford Cultural Centre, $625k for the Reach Society, $50k for salaries leaving about $100 to fund other culture activities. I believe this need to be adjusted to be more equitable.
Abbotsford can only become a vibrant City if we have a more vibrant cultural community. The businesses many candidates state they would like to attract to Abbotsford are looking for communities with active cultural communities. I believe it is Council’s responsibility to provide the opportunities for culture to thrive and under my proposal to engage, support and empower, the future is yours to define.