To ensure the health of its five municipalities it is important that the West Shore, with its burgeoning population, continues to see proportional growth in arts and culture-based groups, organizations and programming.
Numerous studies suggest a link between the well-being of a community and the development of an integrated, community-based arts and cultural framework. In 2005, the Creative City Network of Canada, a non-profit organization working to encourage cultural development in municipalities across the nation, produced six publications detailing why and how arts and culture can be used as a means to better communities.
The research indicates that communities supporting arts and culture see an increase in elements of that city’s quality of life – a measure of comprehensive health and success. These elements include civic involvement, celebration of diversity, life-long learning and access to social services.
One example is the Family Art Studio, a two-part art-making program designed for aboriginal families. In September of 2016, the West Shore Arts Council partnered with M’akola Group of Societies to offer free art instruction for the low-income residents of the group’s housing complex in Langford. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve noticed a huge difference in the amount of interaction between tenants since you guys started the art program,” said one participating parent. “I see kids playing together every day now … I’ve also noticed parents talking and spending more time together. People used to keep to themselves and not speak to each other. I think what you’re doing is so important for our complex and I hope you can start up a weekly program.”
The arts can also provide an outlet for intercultural learning, conflict resolution and community healing. Public arts programming can be a vital tool in encouraging community members to become involved and have a voice in conversations about important issues, whether they be local or international.
Local artist and Arts Council member Rebecca Barnard is holding a series of Paint-In classes through March as a fundraiser for the Westshore Refugee Sponsorship Group. The money raised will assist a family of five travelling from Syria to Victoria. This program is just one example of using art engagement as a catalyst for positive change in the community.
Municipalities that embrace arts and culture industries may also see economic benefits. By integrating art-centred initiatives, cities may become unique destinations with offshoot businesses. These communities often see closer connections between arts and businesses, urban revitalization and job growth.
Presented by the Arts Council and Westhills this past September, the Light Up the Hills festival illustrates one such effort to create a unique event for the West Shore community.
Arts Council president Laura Davis recalled the event: “It was amazing how engaged all ages were in making the lanterns. Some families worked on them for several hours. The festival allowed the community to come together and share what they had created, as well as enjoy other forms of artistic expression along the pathways,” she said. “I believe this will become a signature event on the West Shore of which the community can take pride in.”
To become involved in the Light Up the Hills planning committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and to register for the Paint-In fundraiser visit wrsg.ca.
Kristi Hoffman’s column appears courtesy of the West Shore Arts Council.