Establishing a full-time cultural affairs officer position with the City of Charlottetown is one of the key recommendations listed in an arts and culture strategy for the capital
It was one of 29 recommendations contained in a report released at a press conference Tuesday in Charlottetown by the mayor’s arts and culture task force.
“I’ve said many times, when it comes to (arts and culture) Charlottetown gets it. We’d like you to get it a little bit more,’’ said Henk van Leeuwen, chair of the task force.
Mayor Clifford Lee created the task force in 2011, the year Charlottetown was designated a Cultural Capital of Canada. Such a designation brought in approximately $500,000. Lee wanted the members of the task force to set out and look for ways the city could better connect with, grow and promote its arts and cultural community.
Besides employing a full-time arts and cultural officer with the city, the task force also suggests creating a permanent advisory council, an annual awards program and an artist-in-residence or open studio program, designing ways to increase the business community’s support and investment in the arts, promoting and commissioning more work by P.E.I. artists, creating ways for artists to use empty buildings, offices and outdoor spaces for rehearsal, performances or artistic creation and expanding the Heritage Incentive Program.
“I think the sooner the city can dedicate a full-time person . . . the sooner they can create a cultural advisory council then you’ve got the arts and culture always at the forefront, always on the minds of city staff, city employees and city politicians,’’ van Leeuwen said.
“We want the city to think every time it is making a policy move or a planning decision or embarking on some sort of strategic project or initiative it’s always got arts and culture in mind.’
Members of the task force include van Leeuwen, Alan Buchanan, Jessie Inman, Ghislaine O’Hanley, Murray Murphy, Rob Oakie, Julia Sauve, Harmony Wagner, Josh Weale, Natalie Williams-Calhoun and Darrin White.
The task force would like to see mixers organized that would bring together members of the arts and culture community with those in the business world.
Creating an international festival, which would appeal to those across the province and off-Island, is another idea being floated. Task force members stress this doesn’t mean chasing a one-off rock concert.
Lee said he likes the idea of creating a full-time cultural affairs officer at City Hall.
“I think that makes a lot of sense . . . (but) that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to create a brand new position and bring somebody new into the public payroll,’’ Lee said, adding that he has asked senior management to look within the existing structure of the city government to see if someone could possibly be re-assigned.
“If we’re going to grow this industry one of the first things you need to do is have staff to do the work on a day-to-day basis.’’
Rob Oakie, also known as the executive director of Music P.E.I., said the task force tried to be as realistic as it could.
“We didn’t feel we recommended anything that was too outlandish, too expensive or too hard to accept. We tried to be very pragmatic about it,’’ Oakie said.
He said the idea of utilizing empty space downtown really appeals to him.
“We all know there are some empty spaces downtown that really don’t do the city any favours because of its look. They could be used creatively with some great attractions.’’