The Hornby Arts Council sponsored a Digital Summit last week. The goal was to meet formally with representatives of both our islands’ arts and culture community, to gain understanding of our unique situation/needs in the sector, and then develop a network to support cultural events between the islands.
I attended Day 1 and Day 3 of three all-day sessions. The first day was devoted to getting to know each other. Then we heard presentations. Nordicity, a global consultancy group, presented findings from their recent Arts Impact study focusing on data from the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Islands. This study illustrated what we already know, that engagement with the arts is essential for community health on many levels. Carol Fergusson from the Gabriola, and Yael Wand from the Saltspring Island arts councils gave in-depth presentations sharing their successes.
We used breakout rooms for small group discussions, keeping notes so each of our feedback could be shared with the large group. In these, we discussed effective communication specific to our islands, the impact of the pandemic, alternative strategies for communication. Later discussion focused on the effects of tourism, particularly cultural tourism, on our arts communities and how arts and culture could play a more constructive role.
The second day, which I was disappointed to miss, focused on working with local First Nations to strengthen our collective cultural sensitivity and build reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Nicole Rempel, Chief Councillor, from K’omoks First Nations, and Dr. Jesse Morin, archaeological consultant, gave a presentation with a Q&A after, followed by an afternoon workshop on Cultural Safety and then facilitated discussion. I gathered from other participants what a rich, satisfying and deeply moving experience this day was. I felt bereft to have missed it.
Day three was the richest, for me. Attendance fell to 16 in contrast to 33 on the first day, much as organizers expected. Presentations on the final day were made by BC Culture Days, Arts BC and SPARC (Supporting Performing Arts in Rural and Remote Communities, which is based in rural Ontario and provides an excellent model for our islands communities). We moved toward strategies for developing a collaborative network and support system between our Hornby and Denman Island arts communities.
Fortunately, Kera was there to point out the obvious, that Comox Valley Arts has many resources already in place, so we needn’t re-invent wheels. Every time (it seemed) someone showed a need for a particular resource, she’d say hey, the resource already exists, then provide a link to access it. Helpful and inspiring! The point being, any collaborative network won’t be just Hornby and Denman Islands, because Comox Valley Arts is right there with us, having done so much already and happy to share.
So much was discussed, I can’t tell it all, so I will focus on my impressions and experience. I came away immersed in rich, powerful shared visions, and reinfused with hope. Our islands have a history of following through on visions; I feel positively that this summit will bring about a sea change in how our communities work together. In the past, we’ve operated in parallel, events on one island a mystery to inhabitants of the other. A while ago, one of my favourite artists played on Denman, and I didn’t hear about it until a few days after. I would have tried to get to that, had I known, but it happened on ‘mystery island’ so I didn’t. Eli expressed how frustrated he has been been, as a Denman promoter, booking bands for Denman who would like to play on Hornby as well, but to have no way to make it happen. I look forward to this brave new world in which we share a mutual cultural map and an interconnected arts community. Bye for now, lovelies.
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