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Okanagan Arts

Culture and Community

Spring 2008


An Ongoing Series of Lectures and Presentations that Celebrate the Creative Okanagan

Okanagan Institute
Thursday Express
4:30pm Thursdays
at the Bohemian Cafe

Click here for schedule
and information.


Arts Council of the Central Okanagan
Arts Council of the
Central Okanagan

8-1304 Ellis Street
Kelowna BC Canada V1Y 1Z8
Email: Click Here.
Elke Lange, Executive Director
Wendy McCracken, Coordinator

Produced in association with
Okanagan Bookworks


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Okanagan Arts: Spring 2008

The State of Cultural Stewardship
in the Okanagan


The State of  Cultural  Stewardship  in the Okanagan

I began my journey into the world of cultural stewardship first as an artist, then as a journalist and an economic development analyst, and finally as an artist again. Today, like most artists I wear many hats in an attempt to balance my creative life with my economic survival.

My 25 years journey has been an adventure, and I have settled into a place where I spend most of my time thinking about how organizations and places work. It's not far from creating a painting or a sculpture, but perhaps the biggest difference is that now I attempt to figure out how entire communities and groups of people fit into the economic architecture of things so that they may live free and creative lives.

Something that I yearn for myself.

I often think about that saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach".

I've come to believe that there's some real truth to that, but at the same time I wish that all things were that simple. Especially where culture meets the economy.

I have come to understand that today, the arts are really all about money. Either an artist works to attract it in some way, or repel it away from himself or herself. It's the two extremes of poverty and prosperity consciousness, with artistic integrity seen as siding with poverty.

This struggle that exists within the arts has preoccupied culture for centuries. I have found that for the most part working artists have become less inter
ested with poverty, more interested in being productive, and as a result eager to take a rightful place within the economy. Not worried that their artistic licence will be threatened by the notions of corporate interest.

It has to do with the dawning of a new confidence felt by creative people in our ever more knowledge-based economy. And it's the kind of motivation that excites someone like me who's always eager for social change.

The artist and changing times have always been a good fit. It's the stuff that makes for good stories. It's my turn to tell a few.

A Brief Overview of Okanagan Culture

Here's my short-form interpretation of the "state of culture in the Okanagan". This might be an abstract topic which could have many varying perspectives, but it will provide a beginning point that might very loosely contain the following:
- There are many different cultures within the Okanagan Valley, and the single culture is in fact a cultural mosaic.
- Culture is often truly defined by economic and social needs.
- The only genuine Okanagan Culture is owned by First Nations.
- Working artists and creative producers on average earn far below the national income average, and many remain in poverty.
- Cultural businesses, venues and institutions are running far below capacity and remain stressed economically, resulting in many business owners, employees and managers being under emotional stress.
- Many cultural businesses, venues and institutions are without tourism strategies, audience development plans or business plans.
- There is a limited capacity for many cultural businesses, venues and institutions to expand and realize full potential.
- While the culture that can be considered that of the "Okanagan Valley" has both a rural and urban presence, culture, which is rural based and mixed with agriculture and nature, remains key to any authentic cultural experience and is worthy of building a significant audience.

A Personal Case Study

A memorable stint for me was a sculpture park in Lumby. The basic premise was that this thing would create enough interest that downtown beautification would happen, and then tourists would stop, transforming this village from a mill town to a sort of art village.

A number of statistical analysis were presented, consultants were hired, and community polling was conducted. The community became polarized, and people took sides, cursed each other and made blood bonds. It came down to the artist enviros vs. the loggers. I can remember having coffee with Ken Smedley (a local arts activist) and him telling me, "Lumby? Why would you do this in Lumby? There's okies in Lumby, and they could kill you".

Ken was kidding, but in fact he was half right. One of the long time loggers, defending the old ways of the mill town, summed it up by saying, "Smoke! That's not smoke ... that's the smell of money".

Yes, and the fly-ash on my car was where he made his deposit.

But when that smoke cleared, the loggers were on side, and even helped with building the park ­ and then took all the credit. Which was ok, since others and I were cooked over the whole thing.

After seven years we could finally turn sod, only to discover that the School District didn't want to move a set of goalposts to make room for the park. I simply broke down. I guess in my mind, not moving the goal posts was some sort of strange metaphor for a loss of a couple of years of creative energy.

What I wouldn't do for a sculpture park.

After a respite it turned out to be worth it. Much of what we predicted would happen as a result of building the park did happen, at least as far as bricks and mortar went. Storefronts were improved, pleasant streetscapes were built complete with imitation gaslights, murals went up and a park trail a few hundred meters long turned into a Salmon Trail of several kilometres. There was a museum and new village office with log construction. Today all the storefronts are filled, not to mention a building boom in residential neighbourhoods.

The population has changed. Most of the newcomers are from Kelowna, Calgary, Vancouver and Germany. Once a place of only sawmills, it now boasts everything from medical research to a cheese factory in a renewed industrial area, all primarily because it's now perceived as an avant-garde place to work and live, close to a wilderness playground.

People made money from this art idea, grants primed storefront re-construction, stores are selling more, property values have gone up. The tax base has been enhanced and some are making a bundle in real estate development.

But are there artists visible in this mix of activity?

No, not really.

After witnessing similar initiatives schemes, with similar results, I have learned that the present way we approach such cultural initiatives that seek to link the arts to the economy is flawed and in need of adjustment.

Urban vs. Rural - Artist vs. NGO and the Public Servant

There is a belief that began to surface in the 1990's that placed our cities in the Okanagan as the primary source for our culture. There's probably a number of things that contributed to such a belief including a nation that was becoming more urbanized. But the primary driver was our citified cultural institutions collectively becoming more influential.

This best example of this is Kelowna's decision to employ an Arts Development Officer in the 1990's, whose job it was to develop cultural tourism within the city. This position eventually led to the creation of a Cultural Services Office within the Parks and Recreation Department, which still serves as a model for medium sized cities today.

The person who first filled the position was Steven Thorne. He'd had a teaching career in fine arts and a graduate degree in cultural development. For the Okanagan he represented the first city employee who was defined only by culture within city interests, and was a new ingredient the mix of artists, non-profits and educational institutions.

And he could talk up a storm. Nobody came close to articulating a vision of cultural tourism like Thorne, who went on the lecture circuit up and down the valley priming the future like a huckster out of the back of a wagon.

This was the pivotal period during which the cities in the Okanagan would begin to position culture as primarily an urban experience.

It's been almost 10 years since I first met Stephen Thorne. He was going through his transition from working for the City of Kelowna as the Arts Development Officer into a new role of trying to initiate a valley-wide cultural development project called the Okanagan Cultural Corridor.

I, on the other hand, was creating art in my studio, and at the same time managing downtown Vernon's summer event series for the millennium.

He had heard of my studio and was curious about this artist who sat on the economic development commission in the North Okanagan, was a Chamber of Commerce president, and who was able to juggle these two often-conflicting worlds.

An anomaly, he surmised, and was mostly right.

Thorne was assembling an inventory of all the cultural attractions in the Okanagan and we had met briefly in Kelowna, me in khaki shorts, hair down to my shoulders, a beard and a black Aussie hat, Stephen in an extremely black suite with a very thin tie.

I thought he was weird.

Nevertheless, we had a pleasant visit. He explained the concept of cultural tourism and the tremendous potential that it offered. I had independently learned about it already, but was fascinated to learn his interpretation, and the differences between our approaches.

According to my notes, he mentioned "artist" 6 times, "the arts" 12 times and "wineries" and/or "vineyards" 37 times. So my first impression was that he was predisposed to the culinary arts more than the visual or performing arts.

I remember wondering whether I should have worn a black suit when trying to convince the loggers about the sculpture park, and whether maybe they would have been more responsive. But then I also could feel the discomfort of such a tight tie around my neck.

Thorne explained to me the logic of the Corridor, which would build from the success of the Okanagan Wine Festival and the establishment of the "Okanagan Wine Route", a growing number of agritourism attractions and the new Cultural District in Kelowna. All of this was mixed with certain trends supported by a huge number of studies that indicated that wealthy baby boomers would come here to eat, drink, shop and sleep.

It all seemed like a good idea to me, although I did wonder about plugged arteries, especially those that would result from all that touristtraffic.

Later that summer Stephen paid another visit to my studio where I was able to convince him to sample my homemade wine. After a bottle of the stuff, his more formal demeanour began to soften, and I discovered that there was much to be learned from him about the complicated (and often compromising) machinations of bureaucracy, the politics of culture, and the many masters of culture policymaking.

On balance, I think Stephen Thorne's heart and head were in the right place, but there were simply too many power struggles, and too much self interest for his vision to remain intact ­ at least as it would benefit artists. Upon reflection, I think that his vision was clear and compelling, but he was overwhelmed by the obstacles he encountered as he tried to navigate the difficult landscape of government, business, the tourism sector and the arts and culture community. It is a tragedy that he did not survive, and moved on to other challenges in other places.

By the time he left the Okanagan, most of the organizations which would be the eventual beneficiaries of his work and vision were eager to distance themselves. For some of us, who would became involved in the work afterwards, we have a very different view ­ that he was in fact a pioneer in developing an exciting and rigourous regional arts perspective that thoughtfully links the arts to the economy.

There were flaws to some of his work and ideas, in my opinion. Some of what he promoted actually marginalized both individual artists and the rural part of the Okanagan. Both were seen more as instruments to feed the urban centres and were not considered worthy of becoming prosperous and independent in their own right.

Cultural Tourism Means Bricks and Mortar

By 2002, if you asked most artists if they knew about Stephen Thorne, most of them would recall, "Oh yes, that guy who was doing that inventory of artists for downtown Kelowna," referring to his efforts assembling the work for the Cultural Corridor.

The "Corridor" and the "District" became interchangeable in the minds of most artists and agencies, at least those outside of Kelowna. The confusion is a significant liability not acknowledged by the cultural leadership in Kelowna or by the other stakeholders in the valley. Every urban centre in the Okanagan dreams of constructing some similar variation of a "cultural district" that includes clustering together cultural facilities and building art centres, all driven by a belief that a cultural tourism anchor will be created in their city.

For Kelowna, the entire idea expanded in scope when the idea of a cultural district would act as a catchment for a waterfront development that would have within it public and private cultural facilities. This all became good logic for investing public money to attract private money to build a new downtown core just up the street from the old one. One that would also hopefully serve as the Okanagan Valley's cultural centre. Which is why other communities in the Okanagan have never liked the pitch.

The Cultural Corridor vision was different and less attached to bricks and mortar and at the time was simply to define and market the Okanagan Valley as a "corridor of cultural experiences".

I suspect that somewhere along the way Thorne discovered that the real cultural tourism potential in the Okanagan was not in the cities but out on country roads. The statistical data that supports this view is convincing and represents an overlooked part of our economic development planning valley-wide.

By the time the Cultural District was established, significant dollars had been spent both developing infrastructure and marketing city experiences. However, the genuine visitor interest actually existed within rural and nature-based experience. One of the anchor cultural attractions in the district was and still is the Kelowna Wine Museum in the Laurel Packing House. It attracts about 30,000 visitors annually, which is roughly the same number that visit the Keremeos Gristmill.

In the Upper Mission, Summerhill Winery attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually. Even the Kelowna Land and Orchard Company in East Kelowna attracts 60,000 visitors; and across the lake on the Westside, Mission Hill Winery attracts more than 130,000 visitors per year.

In reality it was not urban-based culture anchoring cultural tourism, but rural-based culture anchoring not only tourism, but also the Cultural District.

So what Steven Thorne attempted to do with the corridor was to apply economic factors to urban-based public attractions through cultural tourism, and then to further leverage positive impacts by adding wineries and agritourism attractions into the mix. This would create an economic engine that regional governments would recognize as being worthwhile to invest in.

If the Cultural District concept was expanded to include the entire valley, then a regional destination would be created that links the urban cultural attractions and wineries together. But, let there be no mistake, the key beneficiaries were far beyond Thorne's sketch of the concept. Downtown Kelowna, its public institutions, private developers and wineries would be the ones who had the most to gain from this big picture.

So while the corridor and the district were different by name, they were very much connected.

The foundation logic of this new cultural tourism approach could be found surfacing everywhere in the valley by 2000. In support of Thorne, Wayne Wilson director of the Kelowna Museum and key supporter of both the Cultural District and the Corridor was there from the beginning and would write, "The physical proximity of venues that constitute the Cultural District ease much more than the movement of tourists and visitors. Notions of "closeness" almost certainly have a positive impact on the area's innovative capacity. In industrial settings and in the high-tech sector, for example, proximity is seen to engender a competitive and entrepreneurial environment that enhances growth. Moreover, it has long been recognized that the urban agglomeration of firms increases their productivity."

Whether its District or Corridor, the past decade has led to a more densified downtown Kelowna, more timeshares and more visitor traffic. Of course, there's really no plan or idea about how the artist fits into this picture, what benefits they can expect, individually or collectively. And, no idea whether cultural or creative sustainability will be achieved at any time in the future.

But one thing is for sure, there has been some pioneer thinking involved. Pioneers walk a tough road. They're never seen as pioneers until after they're dead, kind of like when a painting gets its value. Being the first to traverse unmapped territory is a thankless task, and rarely is there success without the presence of cuts and bruises.

But there are others before Steven Thorne who could relate to that fact.

The Grassroots Philosophy of Community Building

When I lead a sculpture workshop I will often surprise participants after they have created their very nice first compositions they have defined as benchmarking their inner soul and their perfect creative opus, to destroy it - completely.

Usually the response is shock with much disillusionment and even comments directed to my twisted sense of humour. But in fact, it's about detachment and being disciplined enough to be able to say at any time, "This is clearly not working, I must start from scratch". From that point there comes a return to basics.

The Phoenix rising from the ashes is a myth that has historically spoken to humanity, it's a myth that reminds us of pain, but also proposes new opportu
nities. We never forget what we have learned, which means little is actually lost, but much more to be gained.

A return to basics would be a healthy process for the cultural community today, a key process to understanding our cultural roots.

In the modern sense, studying culture in the valley happened long before discussions about the District and Corridor were concepts; there were already many people up and down the valley that contributed to the formation of Arts Councils, galleries and cultural attractions, most of whom were artists. But it's interesting; while history is very much part of culture, we're not very good at retaining the history of how local culture is developed and maintained. As well, we haven't been that good at acknowledging the people who have contributed to such efforts, which become largely forgotten over time.

There was always a vibrant counter-culture in the Okanagan, while it was not as visible as the one that developed in the Kootenays, it still provided enough voice and energy that local governments would support the role of culture in each part of the Okanagan. There were public art galleries and museums and heritage sites, but collectively they were seen as financial liabilities by government, and often the well being of the individual artist while being included in the talk, rarely become part of the walk.

Peter Chataway, an architectural designer and activist in Kelowna, became involved with the Kelowna and District Arts Council in 1988. He and his partner Pat Munro had moved to Kelowna from Vancouver in the 1970's and had been involved with the anti-war movement. He's the first to say that the Okanagan was considered a political backwater with a conservative outlook.

"What we had learned in our travels to places like Nicaragua that theatre and performance could really help drive education and a political message", so as a result Chataway and others involved themselves with the local arts council.

"In 1988, the local arts council sent us to a BC Arts Council conference in Vancouver where playwright John MacLachlan Gray spoke. He said every municipality should have a written cultural policy."

So like pilgrims returning home, they brought this message back to Kelowna where they joined with others including Jennifer Hindle in a collective effort to produce theso-called Lavender Report of October 16, 1989, named for the colour of the cover. The report would prove seminal, creating the climate that would eventually incorporate culture and aspects of liveability into Kelowna's Official Community Plan.

"The heritage and cultural movement in the Okanagan was really brought about by activism", maintains Chataway.

The Core of a New Culture

I maintain that the total sum of a cultural image in a community can be found within the grant proposals that are written to create or maintain cultural initiatives. I think that in the valley we could find the foundation of our modern perspectives of local culture in the creation of our public art galleries, theatre groups, downtown beautification projects and are within our efforts to retain our heritage buildings.

The building of the South Okanagan Art Gallery required forward thinking ­ at the time it was one of the first public buildings to incorporate solar energy. The creation of the French Cultural Centre and the Indian Friendship Centre in Kelowna represented some of the first groups of people in the community who would define themselves as a cultural entity within the local culture.

The Laurel Packing House being preserved as a heritage building really lead to more buildings being protected and contributed to the idea of a heritage location that could house cultural events and agencies. The logic that established support for downtown beautification programs up and down the valley all contributed to this sense of place that had a cultural component.

Caravan Farm Theatre, the Vernon Farmers Market and Powerhouse Theatre, the Kalamalka Writers Guild and George Ryga Centre in Summerland have ­ each in their own way ­ represented key arts-centric inspirations that would foster the notion of artist-run initiatives.

The Naramata Centre is another inspiration, in its presentation of visionary ideas and practices that have become known around the globe. It places creativity into a spiritual context, and has had a significant influence on the evolution of the arts and culture in the Okanagan.

That bridge between art, wellness and creativity would become most evident in Vernon, where the Downtown Vernon Association secured funding to hire mural artist Michelle Lougherty to lead a team of troubled youth to paint giant murals to augment the heritage themes of that community.

The project would last several years and would spread to other communities in the valley and beyond. The funding proposal became part of the core cultural message as it created a convergence between the arts, downtown re-development and an improved sense of community wellness ­ all supported by an economic argument.

The list goes on, but for the most part when we investigate the vision, planning and process of these entities as they apply for government funding, a similar language occurs and a sense of a localized philosophy that has evolved from a certain common origin. And it's not surprising because at the core of advancing local culture are found a number of the same people, still making the wheels turn, with many of them having had roots in the counter-culture of the Okanagan.

The counter-culture was busy creating alternative approaches to mainstream society, it was creating housing alternatives and a "wholistic" sense of community, it was about freedom and creativity. By the time people like Steven Thorne and other cultural bureaucrats arrived on the scene a shift was happening. That shift was less about philosophy and more about money.

Questionable Interpretations that Neglect Better Possibilities

By 2000, it was appearing that support for culture was growing within the realm of community planning. The creation of the Rotary Centre for the Arts and the Vernon Performing Arts Centre support this notion, which ended up serving as a new example of the shifting attitudes about the value of culture community support for culture as opposed to sports and recreation.

Vernon had been attempting to build a sports complex, which is now the Vernon Multiplex, and had a very difficult time achieving public support through referendum. The performing arts centre received little resistance, by comparison. This surprised both planners and politicians and exposed the fact that many ageing baby boomers were seeking different possibilities within their idea of better living.

During that period, Steven Thorne and others had been able to assemble much of the cultural logic that existed in the Okanagan including an inventory of hundreds of artists and attractions, which if mixed with consumer trends, tourism statistics and successful examples of cultural development from other places could provide an exciting picture of what could be done here.

It provided a foundation for a growing number of funding proposals and organizational plans that resulted in a lot of bricks and mortar projects throughout the valley and especially in Kelowna. But over the years I have found that the analysis that most glean from the logic even today is deeply flawed.

When applying community economic development to anything, if you make a comparison to another community or effort, you had better know a lot about the comparison and in particular, if it's applicable.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake are still used as inspiring examples of what can be done here, but what's missing in the comparison to the Okanagan is that Toronto and its 3 million plus people has an enormous impact, for which there is nothing comparible here. The study of cultural tourism is a fairly new science, and wishful thinking isn't helpful to creating visitor and audience development plans that will work.

In almost every cultural planning document in the Okanagan, from funding proposals to reports, there is virtually no mention of enhancing the livelihood of the artist or the creative worker. It's by far the biggest oversight in our cultural planning and our overall approach to the arts and creativity.

Thankfully, there are a few exceptions.

The Osoyoos Indian Band navigated through a hundred years of community economic development to finally arrive at a place where native values and culture, nature and the prosperity of the individual remained intrinsic to the goal of cultural development.

"We are very focused on the future, and we realize that we create this future by our actions. The single most important key to First Nation self-reliance is economic development ­ preserving our culture is why we are in business", explains Chief Clarence Louie.

There's much that can be learned by such getting back to basics.

With operations like the Nk'mip Desert Cultural Centre the Osoyoos Indian Band will set the example for the development of Aboriginal Tourism in the Okanagan and in the process will contribute to a working framework for cultural tourism as a whole where the creative person is the element that success is measured by, and not just the number of hotel room nights that are sold.

Cultural Development in a Creative World of Poverty

The key and most important thing within any cultural plan, is that art ­ whether it's a painting, performance or software ­ has to be good enough for the viewer to demonstrate an appreciation of value, by buying a ticket or a painting or attending an exhibition.

Without excellence at the individual creative level, artistic success will not be achieved, nor will it be achieved at the institutional or community level. This really is the only meaningful benchmark for success, and for sustainability. So if artists on average are earning $10,000 per year, what does that say about the level of artistic excellence?

In most business sectors, income levels are the measurement that tells us the level of success in the marketplace. Culture is more complicated because we have never compiled enough data to tell us where and how artists make income, and more importantly what the social and economic circumstances are that impact the generation of revenue.

You would think that with millions of dollars that has been spent on cultural planning in the Okanagan over the last few decades we would give us access to the kind of data that would indicate the relative health of the sector, both in itself and in relation to other sectors of the economy. But in fact culture has become institutionalized, and non-profit service organizations and local government departments appear to have placed their interests ahead of artists, and this has become a significant problem.

Shifting the Focus into the Creative Economy

We have to be bold enough to realize that there should be a distinction made between the non-profit (NGO) sector and the creative work sector. Culture, like tourism, is dependent on a robust public/private partnership that provides a balance between business interests and community and the public interests.

The existence of these public and private interests creates a complicated environment when considering job creation and business development. The interests of the community-driven sector are different ­ in terms of goals and approach to development and sustainability ­ than the private sector, which includes the working artist.

While goals and approach may be different, both are equally valid, and both require equal attention in order to deliver a cohesive cultural development agenda within communities and regions. Administrators of venues, public galleries, art organizations and educational institutions will largely be concerned with funding programs to keep various venues subsidized and active.

However, while "cultural workers" within NGO's could be described as "cultural managers" the cultural or creative self-employed workers made up of artists, writers, designers and craftspeople could be called "cultural producers". The two sectors are very different with regards to career needs and the way they create revenue for themselves.

There is also a distinction between the Arts Sector and the Creative Sector. The Arts Sector represents a narrow band of workers in the Okanagan, and can often be confused with artists generally, which can include many hobbyists. The Creative Sector is a larger band of workers and self-employed people, which also includes career full-time or emerging artists and writers trying to make a direct living from their craft.

It's within these dry descriptions that the seeds of a new cultural development effort can be found.

Max Wyman, a longtime advocate for the arts in Canada and author of The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters, also suggests that there needs to a new cultural development effort that contains more sophisticated strategies. He writes that new technology and new media added to the traditional arts would prompt a return of something that could be described as "the Renaissance view of art, science and religion as holistically integrated".

Wyman puts this out as a challenge and also suggests that the arts need to be more multicultural, because "as the role and makeup of the modern city evolve, the opportunity exists for the cultural sector to establish (perhaps more accurately, reclaim) for itself a role that places it firmly at the centre of public debate."

While Wyman believes that art education is key for bringing about this new Renaissance, I would suggest that a few steps need to taken, that a new economic framework needs to be developed and supported, one that creates new benchmarks so that arts and culture can be measured in the same way that other sectors are. Most importantly, a new development approach that considers the artist or creative worker as the key and most critical factor when seeking to develop culture.

I would be cautious about a one size fits all approach to culture that assumes that a program delivery mechanism can be built nationally, I think this is part of our problem today, our institutions hold the purse strings to dictate culture to our creative people rather than the other way around.

Where Wyman is most correct is the idea of integrating a creative workforce which could be described as having a job that creates meaningful new forms of expression. The creative class is recognized as being composed of scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and architects, to name a few. Their designs are widely transferable and useful on a broad scale, as with products that are sold and used on a wide scale. But the Super-Creative Core is recognized as a group of creative workers that includes of a large range of occupations (e.g. architecture, education, computer programming) with arts, design, and media workers making a subset of this group.

Between the Cultural District and the Cultural Corridor hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spend in various planning schemes, and I have been part of that process at times. I was given the task of creating a sector and product development strategy for the Corridor. From that process one basic principle surfaced that should define the future of good cultural work in the Okanagan.

That principle is: the audience and spending pie needs to become significantly larger in the future than it is today, and the key beneficiaries of greater revenues should be artists.

Within cultural tourism there has been recognition of the importance of artists and the important role that they play within a corridor or district. But artists are in no way dependent on tourism, however, real cultural tourism is dependent on real culture and artists. Regardless, culture will happen, with or without tourism. But it's wise to know that artists, their work and their work spaces are often the genesis of things like cultural districts which then grow to encompass other community and tourism based priorities and eventually economic ones.

Wayne Wilson would confirm that artists play a special role in the success of Kelowna's Cultural District.

"Artists are, at once, businesses and the creators of much of the District's dynamic flavour. They are, in many ways, the new "authenticity" of the District. Like others, they invest money. Unlike others, they seem less encumbered by the need for order and structure in their investment, and the other stakeholders seem to know that intuitively".

Artists would argue they invest significant amounts of patience in the creation of cultural institutions and cultural development initiatives, but for the most part they are not considered important enough for the community or its institutions to place energy into growing their income levels. Because, up to now we have not applied the same energy, investment, rationale and logic to artists as we have for constructing our cultural institutions.

Creating Prosperity for Artists and Creators

Making a commitment to increasing income levels for working artists will naturally increase audience levels for events, exhibits and collections. This promise will also provide communities and the economy with new foundation tools for applying community economic development.

At the core of keeping the promise, is knowledge about discretionary income which is the amount of money consumers have left after they pay for their living essentials. In the Okanagan, like the rest of Canada, we know very little about tracking such spending on a local level.

The key questions that we will need to ask will be these: What is the level of discretionary income in the Okanagan? Where is that discretionary income being spent? And then: How can we increase the percentage of discretionary income directed to the arts for the benefit of working artists?

Those same questions could be asked of visitors, temporary residents and so on. But for the most part that approach would provide clues to what we would need to do to have more spending retained in the community.

Creating a bigger pie is key to creating a collective effort. Today we are fighting a growing number of artists and non-profits all seeking a piece of the same audience. That interested audience is in fact very small, I call it the CBC Sub-culture which is a community of people that share some common values associated with nationalism, neighbourhood power, a concern for the environment etc. I estimate this audience at only 15 percent of our total resident population

What we need to do is link to the other 85 percent of the population, through very targeted goals and planning that goes beyond platitudes.

The challenge is whether the cultural community can remove itself from building temples to better justify culture to the mainstream and begin to nurture a distinctive cultural climate by our ability to enhance the unique experiences that artists can provide the mainstream society.

This treasure is just barely tapped into and represents the core attraction within cultural tourism.

It has been done before. We have learned to support Canadian content to retain a publishing industry and support our musicians. We have built an entire film industry that attracts productions from all over the world. All of these came about through a combination of efforts from every level of government and the corporate sector.

But such achievements have one thing in common, the individual artist who provides creativity from a place.

So the effort is all encompassing. There is a difference between the needs of the artist and the institution. Culture in the Okanagan is a mix between rural and urban interests within a sweeping landscape of ideas and images. Just as the storyteller and the audience collaborate to define a sense of place that inspires a need to know about the beginning and how things work.

All of these things we call culture need to be kept alive through a constant form of stewardship which involves all of us.

For artists themselves, a greater challenge exists: can a new approach to this cultural stewardship be built that allows for prosperity without lessening artistic freedom? That challenge awaits us.

The Working Artist

A lakefront resort needs a lake; and wine festival needs wine; a mountain top ski resort needs a mountain and culture needs artists.

As our society constructs consumerism, the experiences that captivate our collective imaginations are always linked to foundation products. Such products serve as anchor notions to build a vast variety of experiences around.

In culture we would be hard pressed to reach consumers with theatre that did not have actors, a gallery exhibit without art, or a concert without music provided by musicians. A recent example of this was the Writers Strike that presented new scripts from being written for television. As it turns out, the television production industry is quite fragile without certain key pieces of creative infrastructure.

The event provided some insight into how creative resources impact the economy.

Some 10,000 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job November 5th 2007 seeking a greater share of DVD profits and revenue from new media distribution of films and television shows broadcast on the Internet, iPods and cell phones. They would eventually return to work three months later.

Jack Kyser, the chief economist of the L.A. County Economic Development Corp., has said the 100-day strike cost the county $2.5 billion. He added that the impacts included lost wages from cancelled TV shows and films that were put on hold as well as support services, ranging from limo drivers to florists. He also took into account the wages lost due to the cancellation of the Golden Globes.

Keyser maintainsthe entertainment industry representing about $54 billion of the L.A. County economy is difficult to track.

In British Columbia, 80 per cent of the film industry is working on U.S. productions. But Susin Nielsen, head writer for CTV's Canadian-made Robson Arms, says what U.S. writers were striking for is as important in Canada. "New forms of media the Internet is something that's important to writers everywhere, not just in the United States." she told CTV British Columbia.

Culture it seems is one of the few economic sectors in North America that does not recognize its core product as the element that drives consumer demand towards it ­ artists.

It's not as though culture or art are being ignored by consumers; quite the contrary, Culture in the mainstream is one of the biggest parts of the Canadian economy. However there are two kinds of culture, corporate and global; and community and local, with the artist used as a tool by both to produce the products needed for both to survive.

Today, there are a record number of Canadians working as artists; but they earn 26 per cent less, on average, than workers in other occupations. An artists' employment study released in 2004 described the economic life of artists in Canada.

Examining a 10-year period, the study was based on information gathered by Statistics Canada during the census years of 1991 and 2001. The goal of the report was to get "baseline information about the state of artists in Canada."

The study determined that 131,000 Canadians reported spending more time on creating art than on any other occupation. The highest number ever reported in a census.

According to Kelly Hill, president of the arts research firm behind the study, "We know that this count is low," he added, because someone might spend more time being a taxi driver or a communications employee by day and still be "a musician who plays two gigs a week" at night.

"We know that there are many artists who work at their art [for less time] than their full-time occupation."

Funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, the study reports that between 1991 and 2001, the number of artists in Canada grew by 29 per cent, or almost three times the growth rate of the overall labour force (which increased by 10 per cent during the same period).

However, it also determined that artists had earned even less in 2001, when compared to the overall average of all occupation groups, than they did in 1991.

In 2001, artists made $23,500 ­ or about 26 per cent less than an average annual salary for all workers. The gap had increased from 1991, when they made 23 per cent less than the average.

"I don't think artists come into the profession thinking they are going to make money doing this," Hill said. "It's clearly a passion for many artists...it's the drive to create." Having more artists is "the good news," he said, adding that now "we would like to have them paid more."

So an understatement for sure, especially if you're an artist. But there's a whole piece of data that the study seemed to have overlooked which found that almost 600,000 people across the country worked in cultural industries in 2001. Altogether, 51 per cent of those were located in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

These folks are employed largely in the theatre and advertising sectors. They worked as managers, producers and actors, as well as graphic, theatre and fashion designers. Basically everyone who in some way is supported by the creativity within the arts and entertainment industry, including artists.

So we have 131,000 artists or innovators creating work that supports another 469,000 workers and managers who for the most part get paid a lot more than the people actually doing the creating.

Any farmer could relate to this economic equation.

The big difference between artists and farmers is that mainstream society isn't bold enough to say to farmers, 'why don't you get a real job?' or, 'surely you don't really expect to be making a living wage at this, do you?'

So as communities and cultural organizations begin to plan strategies they should consider the source of where our culture begins with those that do the creating.

When regional economics is applied to this situation, more interesting discoveries occur.

While the Canada-wide income average for artists is $23,000 annually one must consider that there are a handful of successful artists that make significantly more, and they will be living in the major urban centres in Canada. This total average also mixes a vast number of subsets that group together creative people and might include architects and engineers. The bottom line is that the statistical analysis we use to support the importance of culture may be misleading when we consider the state of the working artist.

But even if you were to consider the average as being connected to the "arts" when you remove the cream from the income stream, I would guess that in reality a full-time artist in a place like the Okanagan would be lucky to earn $7000 based on this revised average.

In fact, Statistics Canada identifies that one half of artists across the country, in five arts occupations, earn about $10,000 or less. Translated this means that a typical artisan, craftsperson, dancer, musician, singer, other performer, painter, sculptor or other visual artist in the Okanagan earns $10,000 or less.

But remember, there's a vast cultural support network out their, earning more, and eager that those artists remain alive, or at least on some sort of life support system. In fact the cultural lobby appealing to government for more funding and support is usually that of the support network seeking money to keep our cash starved institutions alive.

Administrators of venues, public galleries, art organizations and educational institutions will largely be concerned with funding programs to keep various venues subsidized and alive, but unfortunately, there is hardly ever a plan to directly increase the income levels of artists.

To an economist, culture might not be recognized as a great revenue generator. While Canadian consumers spent $22.8 billion on culture in 2003, governments spent over $7 billion supporting culture in Canada. Not a very good return on investment.

As more artists seek a career in the arts at the same time as more non-profits all eager to provide more productions to the community with volunteer efforts, there are more people doing fundraising, selling tickets and selling art into the cultural marketplace in the Okanagan.

The underlying message within all of this is that there is not enough money to go around and it's because we're cutting up the cultural revenue pie into smaller and smaller pieces.

The arts and culture sector must take a different approach to expand cultural revenue, but what we have to realize is that arts and culture is not an essential service or product. It survives as a result of discretionary income, and there are few cultural institutions, local governments or strategic plans that address that fact.


Discretionary income is the amount of money that consumers have left after they have paid for their living essentials, which is different than disposable income which is what they have left after taxes.

As Canadians we don't know much about our discretionary spending habits, and local spending patterns are even less available. Much of our economic statistics are driven by the need for other industries to see what kind of revenue volumes they're experiencing to make comparable analysis from year to year.

Within culture, statistics are rather sparse. A good guess would be that in the Okanagan Valley discretionary income is about $15,000 per year per person, which means that $4.5 billion dollar is spent every year on everything from furniture to bicycles. Out of that, every person spends about $758 per year on culture, which adds up to about $220 million or about 5% of the total discretionary spending valley-wide.

But what culture? Let's guess that most consumers are going to spend the bulk of their culture budget purchasing things and experiences that are not locally produced. Let's say that locally produced products and services are about 25%, which would be very generous. This would make for a total of about $190 per year per person, which would make the valley-wide spending at about $57 million per year.

As we create the analysis and follow the money, we know less and less about how consumers are supporting culture and where the money is going. For the most part we're making very rough assumptions mixed with some less-than-educated guesswork.

One such guess would be based on national averages that suggest that artist's incomes represents 10% of the total consumer spending on culture. If this is the case, artist's income in the Okanagan Valley represents about $5.5 million per year, which translates into about 240 artists in the Okanagan receiving $23,000 per year on average. However this data is again sketchy because that figure is based on the cultural worker that is perhaps employed in a art gallery or with an NGO. These people have a different revenue-scape as government contributes an additional 20 million per year into organizational coffers in the Okanagan. So, based on actual consumer spending let's match revenues to artists who depend on consumer spending for their income. The income level for an artist, performer and artisan is more like $10,000 per year, which means that there may be about 500 working artists in the Okanagan Valley.

We know little about the price range of consumer purchases. Most likely the bulk of the purchases are under $30 while a guess might be that about 1000 art collectors exist in the Okanagan who collectively generate about $1 million in sales annually with these sales largely directed to less than 100 visual artists valley-wide.

Of course in this potpourri of statistical estimates are a vast number of hobbyists and emerging artists eager for exposure making very little income and providing volunteer services to a variety of cultural venues. We know very little about them either.

The bottom line is this; if communities in the Okanagan can dedicate economic development strategies that grow artists incomes, they will at the same time learn about discretionary income and spending locally.


If the local economy encourages consumers to become more aware of buying locally, more discretionary income would remain in the community. If targets could be made for consumers to double spending on culture from $730 per year to over $1500 dollars and to dedicate that spending to locally produced products to the tune of $1000 annually, this would move local cultural purchases from $54.7 million to $300 million dollars.

At the same time, if a valley-wide strategy was developed that would include a formula to increase artists incomes so that they represent a third of the total spending on local culture this would translate into $100 million in direct artist revenues.

Within a similar cultural development formula, individual artist incomes could be targeted at $30,000 per year which would translate into over 3000 artists working full time on their trade and providing professional energy into the productions and markets that will realize the benefits on greatly increased revenues and audience.


Multiplier effects represent spending that is expanded from initial spending. So for example, if an art buyer travels from Vernon to Osyooos to purchase a piece of artwork or attend a live concert, they spend money on fuel and meals along the way, which represents money spent in the local economy.

The multiplier impacts are often hard to measure and represent indirect spending. The cultural sector often uses multiplier impacts to firm up the over-all economic support for culture as is often the case when explaining cultural tourism.

Cultural tourism is often described as being successful when it creates greater room revenues for hotels, often by encourag
ing visitors to stay another day, and of course there's the dining and other visitor costs. However, the multiplier is rarely applied to targets that benefit the artist directly.

Conversely, unique multiplier effects happen when consumer spending is directly linked to the artistic revenues that artists receive. A greater volume of creative energy takes place. By setting the stage for increasing direct revenues for artists, the support network of theatres, cultural agencies, galleries and production studios are required to help sustain the expanded demand. By creating and managing these higher volumes of audience, a new destination audience begins to appear which may add another 50 percent to art sector revenues that will create the traditional multiplier of more hotel bookings and dining.

So, there is an opportunity to create knowledge of local discretionary income and clearly link cultural development to it, along with tangible targets that help to benchmark any development actions. This will prove to be the opus for the working artist in the Okanagan, and ultimately for the arts and local culture.

Strange but True: Surprises in Cultural Spending

Much can be learned about ourselves as we examine how Canadians spend on culture.

Each year Canadians spend about $22.8 billion on culture, which translates into each of us spending about $758. Most of it is spent on home entertainment.

It appears that most of us are most likely to cocoon with our cultural experiences because we spend half of our cultural expenditures buying flat screen televisions, audio systems, CD's and cable ­ nearly $12 billion worth. While we're not really sure but a safe guess could be made that much of that spending moves from Canadian retailers to manufacturers off-shore in China, Korea or Japan, or to the United States.

Reading books represents 20 percent of our expenditures as we spend $4.6 billion on books, but it's wise to look deeper into this statistic. First, according to Stats Canada we don't know how much of that represents Canadian, BC or local titles; second, we spend an equal amount on newspapers and books at $1.2 billion each but our educational institutions generate sales of over a billion dollars as we buy textbooks and reading material for schools.

We spend more on going to movies than we do reading books, as we spend 6 percent of our budget on movie theatres to the tune of $1.3 billion.

Everyone's an artist, and the most interactive medium to prove that point is photography, and when we buy film, a camera or go to a portrait studio we're contributing to culture, We spend 9 percent of our budget on photography equipment and services for a total of $2.1 billion.

Much of this spending provides revenues and profits to local businesses as well as jobs, in fact the most common occupation in Canada is that of a sales clerk. But what of local home grown culture?

The statistical analysis is sketchy, but we know that we spend $410 million on admissions to museums and heritage sites and $980 million on live performances and cultural events, which might mean a ticket to a Spice Girls concert or a cover charge to a jam session at a coffee house downtown.

We spend $530 million on works of art, carving and vases, which is deceiving since the data is collected as a result of studying "household furnishings" in the Survey of Household Spending. So this means that carvings from Bali, Monet prints made in China are grouped together with local art purchases.

Museum admissions, live performances, works of art and even our purchasing of antiques are grouped together in a category of Artworks and Events to which we apply 9 percent of our cultural spending for a total of $2.1 billion.

It's very surprising to know that while we generate just over $2 billion in these art and heritage sales, $1 billion is spent annually creating art and music. Canadians spend 4 percent of their cultural budget on art supplies and musical instruments.

And what about regional differences?

While the national average of cultural spending is $758 per person, the BC average is a bit higher at $787, with the lowest spending from Newfoundland at $607 per person. Alberta tops the country at $838 per person followed by Ontario at $802.

The Role of Local Government

With an aging population that continues to grow, a shrinking workforce and a lack of industrial land, the days of businesses moving to the Okanagan that will employ hundreds of workers is over.

We need instead to add value to our local economy through innovation, and build a smarter, more creative, society that can produce ideas as much as things. By doing so, the Okanagan by nature will become a more creative one.

Our local economy is competing within the global economy, our locally produced products are competing in the global marketplace; and we compete to keep our creative people in order to slow the brain drain.

Creativity surfaces in unexpected ways. Impacts as a result of new ideas can shake human consciousness and be in the form of a painting, a film script , book or software. Recently the Vancouver Sun listed what writer Miro Cernetig thought was the twenty most important ideas that were born in BC, and a colourful list it was. One of the innovations was 'neocon-servatism', credited to former BC premier Bill Bennett and implemented here long before Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan got around to it.

So creativity, like it or not, knows no boundaries and can contribute to our culture and economy in more ways than we can imagine. New ideas will probably be our salvation as we plan our communities to be better not only in design and socially but from an economic perspective as well. The challenge is for our communities to become bastions of the creative process that is linked to a sense of place.

Another BC Premier, Mike Harcourt, would sum it up well in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June, 2006, when he wrote, "What is required at every level of government and in every facet of governmental decision-making is an appreciation of the profound value of place, and a sense of confidence in the capacity of Canadians to plan the future of the places where they live."

Creativity should be considered as the capacity to generate an idea through imagination, to develop it into a specific invention and then capture the benefits through innovation. This can include anything from the increased production of material goods to an improvement in the democratic process, from a vibrant new performing arts community to a technical advance in transportation that reduces pollution and improves air quality.

While Canadians spend nearly $23 billion dollars on culture, which is everything from flat screen televisions to opera tickets, another layer of value exists that considers creative producers as exporters and advisors on the world stage as well.

With an active domestic market and increasing international exposure, Canadian creators and companies are contributing $43 billion to the economy, or 3.8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 'Spin off' economic contributions to the tourism and service industries as well as to the IT sector are generated and it is easy to see that Canada's arts and cultural industries contribute to this country's economy. This industry also provides much social value ­ as recognized in UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressionsby engaging citizens in sharing diverse forms of cultural expressions.

Each time an idea takes form, it is within a location, and that sense of place between the creator and the invention is where a community can realize opportunities.

Chaired by Mike Harcourt, the Final Report of the External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities titled, *From Restless Communities to Resilient Places: Building A Stronger Future For All Canadians (June 2006) it states that our communities must have adequate capacities in three areas:

- Productive creativity: The ability to attract, retain and nurture talent, and to foster the clustering of innovative enterprises, commercial as well as social
- Civic creativity: An engaged population, acting collectively through the community and government to shape their future, and
- Community cohesion: A sense of belonging and shared purpose among individuals and groups at the local level, supported in part through creative expression.

This is just as true for smaller communities as it is for large cities.

So while the opportunity exists, the actions required are many. There needs to be a change of thinking on the civic level first as we take a different approach to developing a good working climate that the creative sector can flourish within.

The challenge will be convincing local governments in the Okanagan to consider culture and creativity in a different way. To have them consider culture as an industry of invention and productivity and not one of just institutions and recreation.

Historically, some municipal and regional councillors get a rough-ride from the cultural community as they ask questions about the logic of funding cultural institutions as part of the tax-base.

Those questions are often no different than the one's asked in household's everyday: How much does it cost? Why are we buying it? How are we going to afford the thing and should we buy it?

The problem is, our cultural institutions never seem to give answers backed up with tangible results and logic, and as a result, every year communities and government spend billions of dollars seeking to support the arts without addressing real issues of competition for discretionary income in the marketplace and state of revenues of the creative sector.

Local government needs to begin to consider the state of creativity in the Okanagan along with a multitude of goals that have been previously been overlooked and to begin to build a new creative sector strategy that would apply tangible goals and actions to economic frameworks.

Building Blocks for Local Government

The time is right, and there's a realization that our economy here in the Okanagan must shift. Here's some steps and building blocks that local government can apply for creating a community solution for the development of local culture and a more prosperous creative work sector in the Okanagan.

Creativity as Work-for-Pay
Recognize that the creative sector has within it "working artists" which are people who create for a living, and that their income levels are much lower than national averages. This creative sector consists of different kinds of people and occupations which generate ideas through imagination, then develop those ideas into a specific invention and capture the benefits through innovation. By linking together innovators such as visual artists, software developers, writers, musician's, artisans and filmmakers etc a mix of innovation will occur that will feed economic development using knowledge based opportunities.

Make the distinction between the Cultural NGO and the Working Artist
While equally important, the interests of these two subsets of culture are different. It is important that they co-exist and thrive but they require different strategies for each to develop.

Creating a Quality of Life Charter
Such a charter would invite the community to create a vision of the kind of community they want to create. It would give cultural targets that are community and even neighbourhood based. This charter would be applied to the Official Community Plan that would assist planners with long-term planning.

Create an Endowment Fund
Dedicated to delivering the goals of community-based cultural institutions, such a fund could create a self-determined platform by which NGO's could access operating capital. The fund could be arms length from local government and could be a means by which they could "cut loose" cultural institutions.

Real Targets for Cultural Facilities
Consider public properties that are currently used by the creative sector such as theatres, studios, performance and exhibit venues then determine the present level of public use in relationship to the operating costs. Next determine the maximum carrying capacity of each facility comparing it to the present capacity. By determining whether facilities are under utilized or not will create a snapshot of the present level of efficiency and the present level of audience as well as the growth possibilities.

Audience Development Plan
Audience can mean buyers of art, theatre tickets, workshop space etc. Private/public investment in cultural facilities should involve a protocol which insists that public investment of any kind be directly linked to a formula of "audience
building". Create a step-by-step plan that grows audience levels specific to the carrying capacity of public facilities, the availability of artists and budget allotments. Target 70% occupancy in public facilities and back it up with an operations plan that carries that capacity. In performance, exhibit or workshop venues reach the target even if it means giving the space away on the short-term in order to capture a larger audience in the long term.

Establishing a Creative Index and Benchmarking
Determine the level of discretionary income and spending in the community along with how much spending is retained locally. Then determine the level of discretionary spending that is directed to the cultural sector. Compile this same data for visitors to the community. Apply the level of fundraising and grants from external sources. The collection of this data will make up a Creative Index by which activity can be established and tracked so that efforts can be applied to grow culture and creativity that will keep more discretionary spending within the community.

Determine a Day 1 Audience Level, by according to a "sales unit formula" which would include walk-in traffic, attending an art exhibit, concession sales, theatre attendance, studio sales etc. The total volume of "sales units" within the Creative Index over the course of a month or year will help to determine the actual user level for cultural facilities and spending that will serve as a benchmarking tool for measuring the success of public investment into creative sector and cultural development.

Extension Services for the Creative Sector
Apply energy from post secondary institutions to ongoing assistance for skills training, business assistance and research for the creative sector. Extension practices have been successful in agriculture and tourism and could be applied to the creative work sector. Through such services Art Colonies and incubators could be encouraged that can have a multiplier effect in building a healthier creative work sector.

Encouraging the Urban/Rural Mix
The cultural fabric in the Okanagan is both rural and urban. Any sustainable development effort requires that political boundaries fade in the presence of cultural values and similarities. There remains a need for inexpensive live-and-work space that will require artists to live in the countryside, suburban areas or the city. Whatever the choice, there will be a need for local government to encourage and accommodate such needs; a foundation element for having a healthy creative work sector.

Recreation Goals vs. Creation Goals
There will always be efforts to encourage the community to become more creative in a recreational environment. Recreation departments are often delegated with this task, and then by default operate cultural facilities and initiatives. Local government would be wise to separate the two, applying a more targeted effort towards creativity within the economy and applying appropriate expertise that will further enhance cultural programs, management and development.

A New Deal to Support the Arts in the Okanagan

To consumers, applying a personal choice and discipline to buy local and buy art might be a tall order. But 30 years ago recycling and being conscience of your environmental footprint was an unknown concept to the majority of Canadians as well.

Today, each Canadian spends an average of $758 per year on culture. However, Vancouver residents spend $810 per person and Victoria residents spend $920 per person; $162 per person above the national average.

The differences in these figures suggests that cultural spending can be increased as consumers are convinced to fit more cultural products and services into their discretionary purchases.

Community efforts to adjust consumer spending has happened often right across Canada. Programs are implemented nationally, provincially or locally that help consumers to realize trends, connect with different philosophical drives, and to educate themselves, which all help to contribute to shifting consumer-spending patterns. Shifting these patterns is most successful when the private sector joins with different levels of government and community organizations to act together strategically. It can often be an up hill battle though, as many forces are at play that seek to retain the existing comfort zone of consumers.

There are successful examples of shifting consumer spending and behaviour:

Educational programs implemented by conservation organizations and local government provided a new awareness for consumers to practise recycling. By applying financial incentives through "deposits" further incentives directed consumers to manage their recycling efforts, which created a new consumer behaviour that would eventually spin off a recycling industry in Canada worth billions and employing thousands of workers.

Canadian Content Rules
Under pressure from Canada's culture industries the Government of Canada created legislation that required and supported publishers and music producers doing business in Canada to adhere to certain percentages of Canadian content. Over time this legislation brought Canadian artists into mainstream awareness and has launched countless numbers of artists into the international marketplace.

In the 1970's both federal and provincial governments would invest in a major public awareness campaign to encourage Canadians to exercise more. Comparing a younger Canadian to a "60 year old Swede" became a foundation elicitor that challenged consumers to bike, jog and get fit. The promotion worked and also contributed to a fitness industry that continues to grow today as well as a vast number of recreation programs offered by local governments right across the country.

Film and Television
Many provinces in Canada including British Columbia offers incentives to the film and television industry, which includes tax incentives for companies, which locate production activities in that province. BC also provides seed money for regional film commissions which are also funded by local government. In 2007 the film industry production activities were worth about $1.2 billion in BC. The Okanagan Film Commission helped to secure over $5 million in production activity in the valley.

Healthy, Organic and Locally Grown Food
Increasing consumer awareness and demands for safer and locally grown food created a shift in mainstream consumer awareness that spawned farmers markets, direct from the farm purchasing, natural food and health food stores and even "organic" food labelling in big box grocery outlets. The shift would grow another billion-dollar industry that is still in its infancy.

The Province of British Columbia, under pressure from farmers and orchardists seeking to diversify into more stable agriculture markets, invested into a fledgling wine industry. Through support from every level of government grape growers were able to build the investment and knowledge to develop a wine industry in the Okanagan, which now thrives as a result of local, regional and international sales.

Creating awareness that helps to shift consumer spending to support local culture is a good fit for communities and government. The move will help local businesses, and in the process will keep a larger portion of dollars closer to home, adding value to the local economy.

In the Okanagan if each person would spend an additional $162 annually on locally produced cultural services or products it would mean an extra $50 million dollars that would remain in the valleys local economy.

Similar benefits hold true when we consider reducing environmental impacts. The footprint for culture is very small. Painters, sculptors, writers and performers all consume very little as they apply skill and knowledge to the value of art and creative productions. The material cost of a painting is perhaps $100 while the revenue generated might be $1000 or more.

Books, paintings and CD's are part of the cultural trust that most consumers would admit to. Rarely do such items get thrown away, and are most often resold to others as used and often treasured as collectibles, so the waste generated by culture is minimal.

Adjusting cultural spending has to take place through tangible actions that can be embraced by consumers. Public support for the arts should be recognized and measured by how much consumers are directly supporting artistic innovation. If every Canadian would apply this action plan, a significant increase to the well being of artists will take place not only in your neighbourhood but also across the country.

To the Okanagan Consumer:
10 Things You Can Do

Here are a few actions consumers and the cultural community may want to ponder in a quest to support culture on a local level.

1. Purchase one original piece of artwork a year.

Begin a collection. Research and understand the arts, expect to pay $600 or more for an original unframed painting. Start out small; if you're able buy direct from the artist; and collect what you like, what moves you. Right now less than a thousand Okanagan residents purchase original artwork for their own personal collection. By considering your annual discretionary income and diverting a small portion of it to the purchase of original work you would be contributing in a major way to the survival of the visual arts in your community.

2. Make 15% of your music collection locally produced.

Canadians on a whole spend millions on music purchases, much of this from mainstream international music labels. Consider how much you spend annually and then direct a portion to locally produced original music. You may be surprised what you begin to collect. Collectively, we would be encouraging the expansion of local professional music and we would be growing incomes for local musicians.

3. Increase your ticket purchases to four original stage shows per year.

Whether it's a locally produced play or a concert, by making your first attempt to regularly attend local shows, or increasing your ticket purchases to local shows you would be increasing the audience levels in our local stage venues by over 100 times, creating more full time work for performers, stage and design workers, not to mention playwrights.

4. Make 20% of your reading and book budget Canadian, and 10% of it local.

An exercise that might be easier than you think. Quality writers work throughout Canada, and discovering their titles can be as good of an adventure as reading the book. Exercising this challenge can lead consumers away from television and the mainstream into a very new understanding about the place we live.

5. Add original art to your gift-giving budget.

As aging baby-boomers downsize we're experiencing a sell-off of fine art and craft, and less new purchasing. If you find yourself in this demographic, consider adding local original art, music, books and theatre tickets to your gift-giving list. This will allow less of a tumble in the local art market and will allow patrons and collectors to remain active in the market, perhaps even planting the seed for new private collections driven by those they gave gifts to.

6. Beware of fundraisers including art auctions and art raffles.

Artists will always be active volunteers in the community as they seek constant opportunities for exposure. Locally produced art is often used to anchor non-profit fundraising events. Artists contribute work as raf
fle prizes or auction items, often without remuneration. Over the course of a year the value of such donations made by an individual artist often exceeds their annual income from art sales. Such events often provide consumers a chance to purchase original artwork at a fraction of its value. To further this problem, many non-profit organizations suggest to their patrons that their art purchase is actually not a purchase at all, but a charitable donation that provides them with a tax receipt. This scenario creates even more pressure on the individual artist trying to peg the true value of their work in the legitimate art marketplace.

This fundraising environment has done damage to both local art markets and the revenue opportunities for local artists who depend on the local market. As a remedy, many non-profits have made it a policy to purchase local art at the artist's wholesale rate for their fundraisers, creating a level of fairness for a sector that can least afford to donate.

7. Consider the source of your décor. Ensure that 20% of your home or office decorating budget is spent on local products and services.

One of the largest areas of discretionary spending in Canada is what we buy to decorate our homes, cottages and offices. By deliberately incorporating locally made art and craft into home decor we would develop new and significant opportunities for local economies as unique regional design themes emerge. Places like Santa Fe, New Mexico actively developed this notion, which turned the architecture and design of that region into a national and international design identity.

8. Encourage corporate collections and tax laws that encourage such collections.

In many countries, the establishment of major art collections is supported through tax shelters. Governments can prime economic engines by creating infrastructure that supports the arts. Ireland for example, created tax-free status for artists in that country, which expanded the cultural industry significantly.

By encouraging government to implement such tax incentives, consumers can further benefit as they support cultural endeavours.

9. Ask at the checkout, does this store sell locally produced merchandise?

Educating yourself and your community about the important contributions artists make to the local economy remains a key action for supporting culture. When you're in a store, ask, 'How much will the artist actually receive if I buy this?' This action helps bring awareness to retailers about the need for carrying locally produced art and craft and the importance of retailers being proactive in supporting the local economy.

10. Understand the arts, become a creative person.

Read an art history book; join an Artist Way Group; take a workshop. Seeking to understand your creative side and potential will change your idea about the world you live in. Creating a personal philosophy about you as part of this world will allow you to be empowered to improve your quality of life.

Don Elzer was born in Vancouver, B.C., he was raised on an orchard at the edge of a rainforest. He has lived throughout Western Canada, and presently lives in the Monashee Mountain foothills on a small farm at the foot of a mountain called Coyote Sleeping which is located in the southern BC interior. Don received his formal art education through Okanagan University College.

He has been practising art professionally since 1980, and is considered a premiere Canadian contemporary folk artist. He makes few public appearances and while he is a prolific artist and his work is in demand, it is rarely found in public exhibitions. Through private gallery representation in both Canada and the United States his mixed media wall motifs, masks, sculpture, bas reliefs and paintings can be found in private and corporate collections around the world.

For the past number of years Don Elzer has directed his artistic energy towards the development of sculpture in the Wildcraft Forest. His creation mixes elements of nature with storytelling.

He can be found most days at his studio on the edge of the forest, creating new work along the trail system or maintaining the trails and the sculpture along the way.

Barry Rafuse is a largely self taught artist, although he has studied at Emily Carr College of Art and Design. He has also attended numerous workshops with well known artists. He has acted as a juror for exhibitions, and was one of four local artists invited to paint large paintings for the University of Northern B.C. Refuse passes on his talent by teaching others.

Rafuse has been actively exhibiting his work since 1989 in northern British Columbia. He has had work accepted into many juried competitions, including the annual British Columbia Exhibition, Images and Objects, for 9 consecutive years. Rafuse also won first place in the Interior Images Art Competition.

The Okanagan Institute

is a group of creative professionals that have gathered around the goal of providing events, publications and services of interest to enquiring minds in the Okanagan. We partner with individuals, organizations, institutions and businesses to achieve optimal creative and social impact.

Our mission is to ignite cultural transformation, catalyze collaborative action, build networks and foster sustainable creative enterprises. We provide innovative consultation, facilitation, professional development and creative services programs, as appropriate.

Our events program features the ongoing Express series of presentations and seminars (originally at Mosaic Books, now at Bean Scene North in Kelowna) which take inspiration from articles published in the magazines of Wheat King Publishing: Okanagan Arts and Okanagan Home.

The Express series is supported by a number of organizations, institutions, and enterprises who have joined with the Institute in furtherance of its mission. Our major sponsor is Wheat King Publishing, which provides promotional, logistical and financial support, for which we are very grateful. The other generous sponsors of these events are:

» Arts Council of the Central Okanagan

» UBCO Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

» Mosaic Books and Bean Scene North

» Wood Lake Books

The Express series also honours and promotes the activities of Project Literacy Kelowna.

The literary and visual works presented at the events are posted online at the Okanagan Reader. The Okanagan Institute is dedicated to the advancement of the art of writing and to outreach programs that bring creative thinking and written works of merit to under-served communities..

A series of Okanagan Chapbooks is in the works - occasional compilations, short texts, tracts and pictorial materials of special interest to the principals of the Okanagan Institute - literary works of merit and distinction, history and heritage, the arts and crafts, leisure pastimes and fugitive enthusiasms - by Okanagan writers, and on topics of appeal to Okanagan readers.

The directors of the Okanagan Institute are Robert MacDonald and Karin Wilson.

We invite active participation by all members of the Okanagan creative community. To find out what opportunities are available, visit our website: www.okanaganinstitute.com

We Welcome Your Support and Your Contribution

This document was produced to stimulate discussion about the issues presented.

The Okanagan Institute will be conducting a number of presentations and seminars to further explore them.

To register to receive advance notice of these events, go the the website: www.okanaganinstitute.com

We also welcome your comments on the document and exploration of the ideas presented. The complete text is available on the Okanagan Arts website at www.okanaganarts.com

Wild Blue Yonder at Thursday Express