Painters, actors, calligraphers, weavers, carvers — if it’s an artistic medium, there are likely practitioners in the Cowichan Lake district. And soon area artists will have access to new funding from the Cowichan Valley Region District, although first they must come together and form an arts and culture council.
On Feb. 22, the CVRD hosted its first public meeting on the plan to establish a Cowichan Lake Arts and Culture Council.
John Elzinga, general manager of community services for the CVRD, presented an overview of the arts council idea, which took root last year.
“In April of 2015 a report was brought to the CVRD board proposing the establishment of a single arts and culture authority for the entire region. The board liked the proposal but not that way. They preferred to move more toward a sub-regional approach,” he said.
Consequently, new arts councils will be formed in the Cowichan Lake and South Cowichan districts, adding to the three existing arts councils in the Cowichan Valley in Ladysmith, Chemainus and Duncan.
By the end of 2015, a new arts and culture service was adopted by the CVRD and has a maximum tax requisition of $130,000 annually, which will be drawn from all nine electoral areas and four municipalities. Of these funds, $50,000 will be divided between the five sub-regional councils based on the property assessments from their areas.
Ladysmith and District will receive $8,500; Chemainus Valley will received $5,000; Cowichan Valley (the central council, based in Duncan) will receive $19,000; South Cowichan will receive $12,000; and Cowichan Lake will receive $5,500.
But accessing those funds in the Cowichan Lake district means establishing a suitable arts council.
“We can’t just hand a group a pot of money without having some criteria or expectations,” said Elzinga.
The Cowichan Lake Arts Council must be a non-profit society, include a range of members (people from all around the lake area, not just Lake Cowichan), work with children, offer at least one free event for the community each year, and collaborate with the other sub-regional arts councils.
The council must incorporate programming from at least three different artistic genres (for example: music, visual arts, theatre), and also operate a permanent space somewhere in the region.
Turnout at Tuesday’s meeting was low with six community members (including Area I director Klaus Kuhn) in attendance.
One audience member asked how the CVRD is defining “culture” for the purposes of these councils.
“For each of the arts councils, the definition of culture is going to come from that community,” said Elzinga.
Kirsten Schrader, manager of the CVRD’s arts and culture division, acknowledged culture can be a problematic term to define.
“There isn’t enough time or funding to cover all of culture. Sport is culture, language is culture — it doesn’t go that broad for the purposes of this project at this time,” she told the audience. “It’s the cultural arts. It’s the arts side of culture that we’re limiting this to.”
Some of the people present were members of the Kaatza Art Group, and Pauline Thompson (the group’s treasurer and also a member of the Cowichan Valley Community Radio Society) expressed her excitement about the possibilities the arts council presents.
She emphasized that the Kaatza Art Group is not a registered society, it’s a collective of about 15 artists who organize and host local events.
“We figured, well gee whiz, there are enough artists in this area that we could possibly get something on the go like this,” she said.
The next public meeting about the arts council initiative is Monday, Feb. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.