Vernon Mayoral Candidates comment on Arts & Culture

Clear divisions exist during this civic election season, but there’s a  burst of unanimity over the arts.

All of Vernon and Coldstream’s mayoralty candidates committed themselves to expanding financial and moral support for culture during a forum at the Vernon Public Art Gallery Thursday.

“The funding model is at the lower end of the scale,” said Vernon incumbent Wayne Lippert, adding that investing in the arts helps draw new residents and businesses to the area.

“Good arts and culture are great for bringing in people. It bring in new technology and innovation.”

Rob Sawatzky, who is also seeking the city’s top job, believes there needs be improved communication and co-operation with non-profit agencies and artists to address their needs.

“The mayor should assist and facilitate those in the arts community with their dealings with council and city administration,” he said.

Greater Vernon spends about one-third of the provincial average on the arts and Vernon candidate Patrick Davies insists that needs to change.

“Creativity is one of the top skills sought by employers,” he said of the link between culture and the economy.

“One of the biggest creativity indicators is the arts.”

Coldstream’s two mayoralty candidates are also pledging themselves to the arts.

For incumbent Jim Garlick, he says there is a need to establish a function focused solely on arts and culture.

“Arts and culture have always operated off the side of the desk of the parks and recreation function. It needs its own identity,” he said.

Dave Hrabchuk says there needs to be more focus on creating jobs and he sees a role for culture.

“We need some economic development, We need a bigger tax base,” he said of providing amenities to attract residents, tourists and investors.

The candidates were also asked if they would push for a cultural complex to replace inadequate facilities.

“A new museum and gallery would be a phenomenal asset,” said Sawatzky of the potential for bolstering tourism.

“Visitors come to leave their money in smaller cities.”

Garlick urged museum and art gallery officials to rally local residents because a new complex may require borrowing funds.

“We have to get buy-in from the community. With the Performing Arts Centre, people were willing to do that once they were educated (to the benefits),” he said.

Lippert is adamant that the agencies’ needs aren’t being ignored.

“A plan is underway and we are taking action,” he said, adding that publicly-owned land is already available downtown.

According to Hrabchuk, he hasn’t been impressed with the cramped conditions of the museum and art gallery.

“We can do better in the future. There is no doubt we need a bigger facility and another location,” he said.

Davies believes businesses will financially get behind galleries and museums if they see  local government getting involved.

“They need to know we’re serious about our commitment to arts and culture,” he said.\

By Richard Rolke – Vernon Morning Star

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