A scene from the construction of the foundation of the Vallican Whole Community Centre in the early 1970s, in a project to teach urban people rural skills. Photo: Rob Wood

RARTS: building Slocan Valley community

The Rural Alternatives Research and Training Society has been involved in many projects over the years.

By Marcia Braundy

The Rural Alternatives Research and Training Society (RARTS) was founded in 1971. Its first project was to gather land and build a community centre, the process of which would “teach urban people rural skills.” They built the foundation. Those folks then went off to build their own homes in the Slocan Valley.

Many of them came back over the next few years and built a community centre on that foundation which has been renovated and restored four times since then. The Slocan Valley Free School turned into the Whole School, became the long-term tenant, and helped maintain the building. They were joined by many others, and close to 900 people have since worked on the building.

RARTS went on to found and work in the Dumont Creek Burial Society and cemetery; the Slocan Valley Seniors Housing Society, which built the first rural housing project in British Columbia, the 10-unit Passmore Lodge, an amazing representation of community cooperation; and this year opened the 12-unit Slocan City Suites, another dynamic community collaboration.

Rural skills workshops spun off others put on by the Slocan Valley Recreation Commission and other foodie folks and many community organizing meetings were hosted. Wonderful Locavore Feasts, based in the 100-mile potluck concept of growing and eating local food, both inspire and support the local organic farming community.

Through it all, there have been wonderful community events that profiled and fostered local, provincial and national musical talents; honoured first responders with a pig roast; honoured elders both before and after they died; celebrated weddings and watched the children grow; created a Sculpture Park; fostered the development and enjoyment of excellent community theatre; and celebrated many milestones, joyous and sad.

Most recently an Art Gallery space was created and the Slocan Valley’s arts community was welcomed to share in the space. Just last Sunday, an amazing and giant crowd came together to see Bo Conlan off to the next phase of her spirit in the universe. This is truly an eclectic group of multi-faceted individuals and groups who see themselves as part of a larger whole.

Do you have any ideas, big or small, for helping our rural lives to develop? RARTS is having its 48th annual general meeting on Monday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. They are looking for new board members, and others who have been there before, to bring new ideas and a willingness to work to make them happen. Is that you?

Please come not just to hear the actualization of the efforts of the board and community of the past years, but to contribute to the growth of new efforts for the coming year. Please come to acknowledge the work of the past and grow the work of the future.

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