FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Mayor and council got an update on how their arts and culture framework is being implemented in the City of Fort St. John during their August 28 committee of the whole meeting.
Leah Karlberg, Urban Planner with Happy Cities, appeared by video at the meeting to present their findings for the new five-year framework proposed. The initiative launched last summer, and a second engagement round was held this past February.
Interviews and workshops were held with arts and culture stakeholders during the engagement sessions, in addition to hosting pop-up events, phone surveys, and online surveys.
The Fort St. John Arts Council, Peace Gallery North, the Fort St. John North Peace Museum, School District 60, Stage North, North Peace Pride Society, local First Nations, local musicians, artists, and more were all consulted for input.
In total, 100 pop-up attendees, 237 survey participants, and 23 community groups were represented. Another 400 people were heard from in a second round of surveys, with 75 percent of those surveyed saying arts and culture is as important to the quality of life in Fort St. John as sports and recreation.
“Arts and culture bring life to a community. It is needed to show the talents of individuals and groups and gives our community depth so that we can be known for more than our industry,” wrote one survey respondent.
Music in the park and the city’s artist-in-residence program are just two items that have come out of the new arts and culture framework, with public art installations planned for the fall.
Developing a mural program, expanding music offerings, commissioning and prioritizing public art, and securing funding for temporary public art installations are all goals under the new framework.
Survey respondents expressed that they have had trouble finding information on where to go to enjoy local arts and culture events. Karlberg says there isn’t one central platform for residents to follow, noting the framework doesn’t specifically cite where and how to communicate or share information.
“We really did find that there are lots of places online, especially where people might go for information, but not necessarily one central place,” said Karlberg.
Councillor Tony Zabinsky noted that the city doesn’t have a large arts and culture department and asked if staffing is being underutilized and if they’re on track to meet the five-year implementation time frame.
Karlberg says the framework was created with the capacity of the arts and culture departments and that they continue to lean on the capacity that already exists within the city through the community’s existing arts and culture groups and individuals.
“Many of our actions are really furthering or helping support goals that are really already in place, whether that’s at the city level or the community level and helping formalize and provide a bit of structure in terms of the practical steps for each of these goals,” said Karlberg.
The city’s arts and culture department meets with the Fort St. John Arts Council monthly, but also has ongoing projects with the arts council that require regular communication.
Mayor Lilia Hansen said she sees the community’s desire for arts and culture and agreed with the survey response of 75 percent feeling that it’s important to quality of life in Fort St. John.
“It’s very visible to see the numbers of people that come out to events,” she said.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative.