Candidates for City Council respond to Arts Council Questions

To all City Council Candidates for Election 2014:

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE  The Municipal Election is an opportunity for you to voice your opinion on a vision for a healthy, sustainable community. Please include your views on arts, culture and heritage.

WHY THE ARTS ? —museums, galleries, arts centres, art studios, dance, fabric arts, educators, writers, theatre, music, media, designers, artists, choirs, bands, festivals, First Nations art, performance, film…  Arts, cultural and heritage represents creativity, pride in the community, economic benefit and cultural diversity.  Art and health go hand in hand for life-long development of children and families in our community.


  1. How do you see arts and culture contributing to a sustainable community?

  2. What elements do you think should be included in a Cultural Policy for the City?

  3. How do you see the role of the City in supporting arts, cultural and heritage activities in the community?

  4. How can this city develop arts and cultural activities to bring in more economic benefit to the community?

The Arts Council has received the following responses from candidates for City Council, displayed in the order that they came to us:

Bruce Christensen

1. In order for us to be able to attract skilled and unskilled professionals to Fort St John a visible cultural community is necessary. 

2. Cultural awareness needs to be in everything we do, from new devlopments to recreational facilities.

3. I believe it is the city’s responsibility to encourage and support where possible the creation and growth of a community that is knowledgeable in the arts. To develop policies which encourage the creation and the growth of music, art, dance and all the aspects of arts and culture.

4. I believe the city, along with members of the arts, members of our different ethnic communities need to come together to find what there is to offer. If possible, what is wanted, and how can we, together, move Arts and Culture forward.

Rebecca Grimsrud

Arts and culture are an integral part of a vibrant community.  I have personally been heavily involved in the arts over the years, and even pondered pursuing it as a career.  Some of my experience in the arts is as follows:
– Involvement in almost every production in the Prince George Theatre Workshop Society from 2001-2005, and an active member of Street Spirits Theatre Company and Improv Ad Nauseum for about the same time period
– I served for a year as a member of the board of directors for PG Theatre Workshop Society around 2002
– I took piano lessons for many years, as well as guitar for a few, and I absolutely love watching local musical talent
– I was an active visual artist, and once had a piece (a light installation) on display in the Prince George Art Gallery
Unfortunately, I have not yet found myself as involved in my time spent in FSJ (almost 9 years), but I absolutely see the immense value of the arts and would love to change that in the future.
In response to the questions to ponder, there are so many benefits to a creative community! Even when responding to the recent questions in the All Candidates Forum, huge issues such as health care could be positively affected by a vibrant arts community.  Arts have the ability to transform a city, and could do wonders for attracting many more of the much needed professionals to our city.
Gord Klassen

I love art, whether created with a paint brush or a guitar string. I am also very aware that art encompasses everything from the one who sits alone at a potter’s wheel to the dancer on a stage in front of hundreds of people.  At an early age, we use imagination and we pretend. Then we grow up and often the busyness of life can overshadow or push that creative inner artist out of the way. But it is still there, inside each one of us, to a varying degree – – – the desire to dream, to create, to bring that vision to life with our hands, our feet, or our voice.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my perspective on arts and culture in our community. Below is my response:

  • How do you see arts and culture contributing to a sustainable community?

One of my core beliefs in running for City Council in 2011, and again in 2014, is that we need to work together to build community. Community is about inclusion, connecting, and belonging. The diversity of arts and culture is unmatched by any other community element, reaching out to people with an extremely wide range of interests and experiences, offering a vast variety of spaces in, and through, which a person can connect and belong.

In the words of the Provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, arts and culture “encourage participation in creative activity, improve the quality of life and social cohesion, develop, attract and retain skilled and innovative thinkers for the creative economy, foster community identity and a sense of place, and contribute to local, regional and provincial economies.”

Participating in the arts helps people develop their creativity. Creativity involves imagination and the ability to visualize. ‘Seeing’ situations as they might be in the future is a valuable tool for solving problems and changing situation.  Many arts organizations and projects work along non-hierarchical and co-operative structures. People take on roles according to need and are adaptable and flexible. This encourages innovation and promotes positive social relationships.

Creative projects involve positive, responsible risk taking. Risk taking is a pre-requisite for growth and development. Overcoming risks such as those associated with identity, ability and relationships creates confidence, and flexible and risk competent people are able to deal with the uncertainties and challenges of the future. I believe that this is possibly one of the most significant, yet unseen contributions of arts and culture to a sustainable community.

  • What elements do you think should be included in a Cultural Policy for the City?

First of all, I believe that the arts and culture policy should ensure that there is representation from a broad cross-section of artistic disciplines and cultural practices. It is important to hear from the various perspectives as the policy is created and carried out. The policy should be non-partisan in nature so that it supersedes the government of the day, and does not become a pawn to be used in bargaining or campaigning. The policy should reflect the entire community’s diversity and interests.

Because I view the culture of a community in a very broad sense, and because I believe that there is strength in the synergy that is created when multiple groups and perspectives join together for a common purpose, I believe that the arts and culture policy should work to include as broad a spectrum as possible. Whereas, traditionally, arts policy was effectively limited to addressing aesthetic concerns, the significance of the transformation to an arts AND cultural policy can be observed in its emphases on cultural identity and heritage (including, but not limited to First Nations), educational values, historical dynamics, and possibly even a resource and/or environmental perspective. Elements such as trapping, food production, or alternative energy may not have had a place in an arts policy, but could very well fit into the cultural framework of more all-encompassing policy.

I believe the arts and cultural policy should also include a commitment to academia in the sense that the community can optimize its value and impact by leveraging its potential as an educational and training opportunity. In other words, the value of arts and cultural programmes is not limited to the programme participants only, but to the entire community. In this way we can maximize the use of an activity and get the best value out of it for all concerned.

I believe that it would be appropriate for an arts and culture policy to include an element that addresses the potential productive value of an arts or cultural resource, including the use or application of that object, process or activity so that it makes money, or generates value, with the connotation that the thing validates itself and proves its worth when it results in earnings, or a yield of some sort. In the end, I believe that the arts and culture policy should include in its purpose a commitment to be self-sufficient and perhaps even economically beneficial to the community.

  • How do you see the role of the City in supporting arts, cultural and heritage activities in the community?

One of my goals for this next term on City Council is to work on a social framework for our community. A vital aspect of that policy would be the role of arts and culture. I believe that the City should continue to be an active partner and stakeholder, working in cooperation and collaboration with those who are working to establish and grow the arts, cultural, and heritage activities within our community. That being said, I believe that in this era of increased fiscal constraints, government funding is going to be increasingly a challenge, and I am convinced that all community organizations are going to have to get creative and find alternative funding sources.

In my role as City Councillor over the past 3 years, I have encountered many individuals, business owners, and industry leaders who are experiencing the challenge of recruiting workers. The people they are attempting to hire are looking at our community to see what opportunities are available for their families. A strong arts and culture environment will help greatly in attracting people and families to our community.

The City can leverage the power of arts and culture to enhance the constructing of local history and provide narratives which are more personal and directly related to the experiences of communities and the people who live in them.

The City can use arts and culture as another link between our local community and the larger global community through the two-way connection between our local artists and the global community of arts and culture – people coming into our community as well as our own going out to showcase their talents and abilities. I believe that Fort St. John has proven itself on the world stage as a hotbed of talent, as so many of our local artists, including authors, painters, musicians, dancers, etc. have been so successful beyond the borders of our community. In this way, the City is promoting itself to the world, and growing a strong sense of self-image that is so important for a community.

  • How can this city develop arts and cultural activities to bring in more economic benefit to the community?

My vision for arts and culture in our area includes the hope and the belief that it can provide incredible economic benefit to our community. This can happen through shows, exhibits, festivals, etc. Performance is interpreted broadly to include not only theatre, film and dance, but also mixed-media and site-based work, Olympic pageantry, festival events, political protests and cultural displays within tourism ventures. Personally, I would love to see our arts and cultural community develop a strategy for an event, or series of events, that would actually attract visitors to our community; something that we become “known” for. Again, this not only provides an economic benefit to the city; it promotes our community to the world, it boosts our own self-image, and it give our own residents a sense of accomplishment.

I also believe that, as we look towards “energizing” our downtown over the next several years, our partners in arts and culture can provide valuable input and perspective, and as we work together to make our downtown a place people go to rather than simply going through, it will bring further economic benefit to our city.

As I run for re-election to City Council, my vision is to “Build Community”. Community is about inclusion, connecting, and belonging. And to that end, I am glad to see our community providing more opportunities for people to belong through sports, arts, and culture. It is also exciting to see the growing diversity and multiculturalism in our community. I am committed to these aspects of community life, and will continue to work to make Fort St. John a place where people feel welcomed and wanted.

Finally, Community is about all of us working together. I am committed to developing more strategic partnerships with individuals, businesses, institutions, and non-profit organizations, bringing together our energy, experience, and expertise to produce something that will benefit the entire community. And that is my hope for the future and my vision as one who is running for City Council – that we would strive to work together to make Fort St. John an even better place to live, work, and play!

Byron Stewart

How do you see arts and culture contributing to a sustainable community?

Arts & Culture are vitally important to the social fabric of our community. We are very fortunate to have a strong economy of which attracts a great deal of attention our way for those that are unemployed and looking for opportunity in others areas of our province and nation. The strong possibility of gaining steady employment continually brings new persons to our region and community. It is the social fabric that keeps those persons here, entices them to make our community their new home, not only for themselves, but also for their families. Arts & Culture, Sports & Recreation, Education, Health Services and Community Safety are the essential ingredients for a community to sustain, survive and prosper.

What elements do you think should be included in a Cultural Policy for the City?

I would like to see more exposure to our First Nations cultural history included within any Cultural Policy. While Fort St. John is the oldest non-native settlement in British Columbia, we have shared the beauty of the Peace Region with our First Nation neighbors for all these years. I think any Cultural Policy had better be inclusive and educational regarding our shared history.

How do you see the role of the City in supporting arts, cultural and heritage activities in the community?

The City needs to continue to support our arts, cultural and heritage activities in a variety of ways. It is essential to create opportunities for and encourage and nurture creativity in the youth of our community as, I believe, this leads to broader thinking, inclusiveness and healthy, outside of the box thinkers. I am a strong advocate for involving children and youth in activities that will support their needs and desires for growth, learning, joy, and achievement.

How can this city develop arts and cultural activities to bring in more economic benefit to the community?

The economic benefit for the community comes from persons being attracted to what is being offered and those persons being able to structure their daily activities around that event or activity. The economic benefit grows as more persons and their families choose to make Fort St. John their home therefore adding to the cultural growth of our community.

The City currently hosts a number of these events and activities, including Canada Day celebrations, the High On Ice Festival, the Christmas Parade and others. There are also events and activities the City supports in various ways, such as the Moose FM Block Party, Movies in the Park, the Airshow, the RCMP Musical Ride, North Peace Fall Fair and more. Additionally, The City provides financial support through funding and/or tax exemptions for various facilities (Museum, NPCC, Arts Post, etc) and cultural organizations, such as the Arts Council, the FSJ Library, the North Peace Cultural Society and more.

The partnerships, events and activities are actively being worked on by many and I expect they will continue to grow and develop with the changing needs and expectations of our residents.

Larry Evans

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.  My response to the questions is as follows:
1.There are many things that make a community vibrant and viable.  The Arts & Culture is necessary to make a city complete, and should be available to everyone.  I believe Arts & Culture can help us in many ways to make the city livable. An example of that would be the recruitment of health personnel, in letting them know that Fort St. John, along with Sports and Recreation, help to make this a vibrant community.
2.The elements should encompass all forms of Arts & Culture.  As this goes in making Fort St. John a diverse and wonderful place to live.
3.The biggest thing is to treat everybody fairly and with respect, including the Arts & Culture community.  While it’s not the City’s sole responsibility, I believe that the City should help assist in promoting Arts & Culture to make our city complete.
4.I believe the City has an obligation to advertise and promote all events within our city, including Arts & Culture.

I have been involved with many arts, cultural and heritage events over the years in Fort St. John, and have respect for the amount of work and participation it takes to keep these very valuable community groups going.  Thank you for all of your hard work

Dan Pope

Here are some of my thoughts about the questions posed to the candidates running for council
1. Arts and culture are  integral  to  the fabric of the community.  Through celebrating our various heritages through the arts we develop an understanding of ourselves as a people within our community.  Without the Arts how can we connect with one another?  Needless to say, I strongly believe celebrating and supporting the Arts.  My wife has served many years as a Board member of the Peace Art Gallery and two of my daughters have pursued their Art education at the Emily Carr College in Vancouver.
2.  The Cultural Policy of the City must include continued support for the Arts through appropriate funding.  I was dismayed to learn that funding was reduced to the Cultural Centre recently and I will most certainly speak loudly on council to reinstate this funding and assure funding for the future.
3.  The City has an obligation to support arts, cultural and heritage activities.  Committee meetings with these groups to develop meaningful activities is something I will be involved in if elected.
4.  I would like to see more opportunities for artists to display their work at businesses and civic buildings.  During this last summer I saw local artwork on display at many of our local businesses.  What a wonderful initiative and a positive way to highlight our local talent.  We have a wonderful Cultural Centre with room for audiences to enjoy more of our local talent.  Economically, we could certainly showcase our local talent more effectively for our artists especially during the summer during tourist season.  The city should take an active role in promoting cultural and art events.

In closing I would like to quote the great Winston Churchill who said the following during the Second World War:

Responses from other candidates will be posted here as they are received