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Arts and heritage: believing, doing two different things

Art and heritage sometimes comes together, such as at the Courthouse Art Gallery, but will merger of arts and heritage commissions work?

Art and heritage sometimes comes together, such as at the Courthouse Art Gallery, but will merger of arts and heritage commissions work?

ARMCHAIR MAYOR SAYS — I’m not sure which is in worse shape, Kamloops arts or Kamloops heritage.

Nobody seems interested enough in either. The Community Arts Commission and the Heritage Commission are, theoretically, supposed to guide City policy in these two important areas.

It’s so hard to find anybody to sit on either commission, and almost as hard to get a quorum at a meeting, that they have trouble getting anything done.

The arts commission met four times last year, the heritage commission three. They’d meet more often if they didn’t have to keep postponing meetings. Half the arts commission meetings of the last two years were cancelled or postponed for lack of a quorum.

So, City Hall will merge the two commissions, as if that will somehow encourage board members to show up. I don’t quite get the arithmetic. If you can’t get a quorum of two groups, how does making them one group make things any better?

Don’t you just end up with half a board that’s disinterested in half the agenda, and half a board that’s disinterested in the other half?

Can’t blame them for trying, though. As kitchen sink director Byron McCorkell (he’s responsible for so many different things I have trouble keeping track) wrote in a report, “There are many topics and synergies shared by arts and heritage, such as public art, that would benefit from collaborative input of both groups.”

Well, there’s one. Yes, the heritage commission is occasionally interested in public art if it has anything to do with history. And maybe the arts commission might have been interested when that awful mural was painted on the back of the Memorial Arena.

Otherwise, expecting the twain to meet is wishful thinking. But, insists City Hall, merging the two groups presents “an opportunity to develop new terms of reference to be more inclusive and better reflective of the entire cultural community.”

This seems more like dilution that expansion. A lot of cities, for example, have staff specifically to protect and restore heritage structures, rather than handling it off the side of their desks as it’s done here.

Now, heritage issues will get thrown into the same meeting agendas as grants to thespians wanting to put on plays and musicians wanting to cut records. Arts policies will be contemplated in the same boardroom as plaques on buildings.

The importance of both is under-valued in the process. Despite the mouthy minority that complains about such things as arts and heritage being a waste of money, Kamloops is a community that puts value on such things.

So why is a quorum at a commission meeting so tough to come by? I think it’s because believing and doing are two different things. It’s not that they don’t want to be involved. People are just too damn busy.

The wonder isn’t so much that we don’t have a performing arts theatre and more public art, or that we haven’t saved more heritage buildings, but that we’ve done so much thanks to the few who work month after month, year after year, to make it happen.

Clearly, there aren’t enough of them.

The change will likely take place soon, as council awaits terms of reference for the new Cultural Commission from staff.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6980 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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