“Don’t be afraid to use your voice today,” said Hupacasath councillor Jolleen Dick at the beginning of the “Speak Out, Speak Up, Speak Now” arts, culture and heritage public engagement event on Saturday.
Speaking out was certainly a theme of the event, hosted at Echo Centre, which had a number of opportunities for Port Alberni residents to share their ideas and suggestions for a sector that is primarily volunteer-driven.
“We wanted to do something different than a town hall meeting,” said Theresa Kingston, city community services director, during the opening ceremony. “There are lots of ways to give feedback.”
Some of these included various surveys and bulletin and graffiti boards, an opportunity to deliver a “rant” on camera and a community banner where participants could vote through hand-painting for what they think is important.
All of the feedback given during this event, according to Kingston, will be compiled and delivered as a recommendation to city council.
“We’re in the process of synthesizing that,” Kingston said. The event started out as a way to find a focus for the direction of the Port Alberni Museum, but, said Kingston, it’s part of a larger sector, as well.
City councillor Denis Sauvé said in his opening remarks that he was impressed after watching the Portal Players Dramatic Society put on their performance of “Musical Memories” earlier this month. “We really need to start cherishing this,” he said. “We need to continue to be a voice to ensure that we keep these assets in our community. It’s important that we don’t forget our assets, which is arts, culture and heritage. They actually put us on the map.”
A mock town hall meeting took place, facilitated by David Wiwchar of the PEAK 93.3 FM. Debaters Brent Ronning and James Brook argued over topics like whether or not tax dollars should be spent on the arts, and whether or not arts, culture and heritage should work collaboratively.
Members of the audience were also invited to participate in the debate, and had a chance to let their voices be heard on microphone.
Later, an open space session also took place.
Facilitator Nene Kraneveldt said the event was well-attended, with more than 200 people coming through. “There was lots of feedback, lots of interaction,” she said. “Lots of engagement, as well.”
Although Kraneveldt says there are no plans at this time to make the art engagement event an annual tradition, there were certainly requests for it.
Cynthia Dick, elected chief councillor for the Tseshaht First Nation, made this request during her opening remarks.
“I’d love to see it as an annual event,” she said. “We’re in a very interesting time. We get to celebrate our differences and what makes us unique.”
The event also included a large trade show which featured 17 booths, but this only represents a small cross-section of the arts, culture and heritage in Port Alberni, according to King.
“I think the people participating learned a lot about these groups,” said King. “And it was great exposure for the people in the trade booths.”