Changes are coming to Nelson's cultural development committee aimed at fostering greater collaboration among arts groups.

Nelson cultural committee in for overhaul

The group tasked with developing Nelson’s cultural sector is getting a makeover.

The group tasked with developing Nelson’s cultural sector is getting a makeover.

City council has approved a restructuring of the cultural development committee that will see certain seats filled by staff members of arts organizations rather than board members.

It follows a city-initiated exercise to explore greater collaboration by arts and culture groups, which identified several priorities including a shared marketing and advertising identity, creating a downtown culture hub, and an Edinburgh-style festival with “rich and varied” cultural activities on multiple stages.

But achieving those goals required someone to spearhead them, said Joy Barrett, the city’s cultural development officer. A working group determined the cultural development committee was the only existing body that could take it on, and forming a new “cultural table” would just hamper progress.

“Rather than create another group that met every month parallel to what we were already doing, it made sense to keep the cultural development committee, but use the people on the ground doing the day-to-day work,” Barrett said.

The working group agreed that since paid administrators are primarily responsible for planning and management, they have the most complete information about collaboration opportunities and the authority to assign staff or other resources.

Until now the cultural development committee’s 11 voting members have included a city councillor, and one representative from each of Touchstones Nelson, the Capitol Theatre, Nelson and District Arts Council, Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership, and the city’s advisory planning commission, plus one member representing the preservation of heritage buildings and four at-large members, with at least one from the business community.

In some cases, staff members already represent their organizations on the committee. While Barrett said major players will continue to have designated seats, it has yet to be determined how the committee’s make-up will reflect other sectors that don’t have paid staff. She expected it to be a “mix of main players and reps from the literary arts or music community.”

However, the committee’s overall size should remain about the same. The group also has standing committees, such as one devoted to public art, which bring in other people.

Barrett said the idea was well received by city council last week and she expects the revamp to take shape early in 2015. “It should be a smooth transition. Some of the people are going to be the same.”

Cultural development committee chair Stephanie Fischer, who is also the executive director of the Capitol Theatre, believes the restructuring will “improve capacity for further development of the arts/heritage/cultural sector in Nelson.”

By having administrators at the table, the committee will be able to move the goals in the cultural collaboration plan forward effectively and efficiently, she said.

“Collaboration in marketing the sector, building capacity within organizations and groups, advocacy as well as continuing to build cultural infrastructure were identified as some of the issues which I think will help all organizations,” she said.

Touchstones Nelson executive director Leah Best said the changes “make sense on a lot of levels.” Although initially concerned about the time commitment, she’s been assured it will “create efficiencies that should make our desks less cluttered.”

Best said it should result in more sustained partnerships. “Other than the library, we haven’t collaborated with other arts organizations and I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Nelson and District Arts Council president Ron Robinson said his board also supports the restructuring.

“People will change and some of the focus might change, but I think for everybody concerned it will be more efficient for marketing and sharing resources,” he said. “We’re quite excited.”

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