Community members came together to discuss the steps steps in the cultural planning process.

Taking it to the streets: Cultural planning

Community members come together to discuss the next steps

fter a year of meetings, discussions and focus on the arts and cultural aspects of Sooke the Sooke Region Cultural Plan has been completed.

It is hoped the cultural plan will serve as a starting point for discussion around developing a healthy arts community for the Sooke region.

Evonne Black, who served as project coordinator along with Sarah Temple, said the plan is intended to identify five key strategies that can be implemented over the next five years.

At a wrap-up meeting on Nov. 15, volunteers and member of the public came together to discuss where to go from here. Twenty-seven people from all sectors of the community openly discussed the completed plan and the steps required to go forward.

“One year ago we started to say, ‘what are we sitting around the table trying to do?’’ said Black. “It was to create a five-year planning document that includes representatives from all sectors.”

The working group consisted of 37 people representing 42 different organizations, service groups, individual artists and businesses. Eight meetings were held plus a one-day Cultural Summit on Oct. 22. Funding came from a collaboration between the District of Sooke, Juan de Fuca Economic Development, Sooke Community Arts Council, Sooke Region Tourism Assoc., and the Sooke Fine Arts Society. A monetary grant was received from 2010 Legacies Now and Creative City Network of Canada.

The cultural plan was a direct result of ArtsWave, a series of surveys, interviews and public consultations to provide a perspective on the strengths and challenges for the arts in the region.

At the Nov. 15 meeting, Black outlined the next steps.

The first crucial step is to create a Cultural Planning Advisory Committee (CPAC) by amalgamating with the Sooke Program of the Arts Committee and to explore additional partnerships. This would be an umbrella organization representing all sectors of arts and culture in Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.

The CPAC would then approach local and provincial governments for funding to carry out the plan and to perhaps create a staff position with civic administration to provide leadership, coordination and collaborative working relationships for the arts sector. The position could be shared with the Sooke Regional Tourism Association and the Sooke Economic Development Committee.

“Coordination cannot continue to be done by volunteers,” said Black.

Other priorities would be to revamp the community grant review panel and review its policies and criteria. Hosting an annual cultural summit to foster community partnerships is also a priority as is seeking out grant opportunities  that would provide funding for the administration of building a collaborative approach to developing a vibrant arts and cultural sector. A volunteer centre was also listed as something important.

To increase knowledge and interest in the arts, cultural and heritage resources there was talk of developing an electronic newsletter to serve as a central hub for information.

Lee Boyko, executive director for the Sooke Region Museum, said it was necessary for organization to talk to each other.

“The infrastructure is already in place,” he said.

Coordinating marketing and promotion campaigns was a high priority as well as producing cooperative advertising materials suitable for hotels, B&Bs and vacation rentals.

Another direction would be to encourage event organizers to partner with community arts, cultural and heritage organizations in the planning process as well as joint marketing.

“We have lots to celebrate here,” said Black.

Mentoring opportunities with artists within school programs was another of the strategic directions outlined in the cultural plan. Opportunities for youth to exhibit and perform at events within the region was a high priority as was developing a youth-friendly media source for communication.

Coordinating with First Nations bands in arts, cultural and heritage festivals and events was seen as an important facet of the plan.

For now, a slight reorganization within a swiftly formed ad hoc Cultural Planning Advisory Committee, will assess the best way to move forward to start implementing the priorities outlined in the plan.