Arts and Culture as an Economic Driver?

As we look at Economic Development opportunities for the District of Squamish, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the importance of a vibrant arts and culture community to our economic goals. Creative industries are a growing segment of the employment landcape in Squamish, and need to be included when looking at a multi-faceted economy for Squamish.

The City of Brampton, Ontario has recently embarked on a project to use the Arts and Culture sector as a means to revitalize their downtown core. While I appreciate the difference in scope, I think there is a good case to consider how these activities could apply to revitalizing the Squamish downtown core.

So now the question remains: Does the Creative Sector drive Employment?

According to the Opportunity BC 2020: Creative Sector report produced on behalf of the BC Government, economic activities from the creative sector outperformed more traditional industries such as forestry and agriculture, and employed more British Columbians then those industries, or over 4% of the total workforce.

So how could Squamish harness this potential? 

We have a problem before our community - what can we do to revitalize a dying downtown core? In an earlier post, I introduced a vision where  downtown Squamish could become our urban space; our centre for arts, entertainment and night life. The first seeds of this transformation have already been planted downtown, and I believe council should develop real strategies for leveraging arts and culture as a catalyst for the rebirth of our civic core.

Arts, cultural and entertainment uses should be encouraged as a way to bring life to the core in the evenings, and where possible, civic infrastructure should be utilized as much as possible to encourage these activities. Street parties, live music, indoor and outdoor art installations, preference of art uses for the community amenity portion of development applications, similar to the Percentage Arts policy in London England, or how the City of Calgary has woven arts through public / private partnerships into the core of the the iconic East Village redevelopment.

We have the right talent in our creative sector, the right location, and the right civic partners in the Squamish Arts Council. With some vision and courage from our political leaders, I believe we can give Arts and Culture in Squamish it’s due, and let it help create the future of our downtown core.

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