Peeling back the hide

January’s mark new beginnings, new years full of promise and dreams.  For Habitat, just over a year old, we are now looking at our old age – in a sense.  We created a space for exploring the arts, a place to show art, create art – regardless of age or skill.  The community jumped on board with regular workshops, film nights, demonstrations and events.

Music in the Street!

And as the Habitat prepares to take down the walls of accessible creative space – the walls for Habitat II are going up.  You see, in 2011 we were invited to be part of the new Library that the Town of Jasper is building.  They have opened up the northwest end of the new structure to be a home for Jasper’s Arts and Cultural industries.

So, as we get into the groove of booking events and opening doors for the varying community orgs to create programming in Hab I for 2012 – our attention and energies are twisted towards making sure that, when Hab II opens its doors in 2013, it reflects all the gusto and intensity of seasoned arts and cultural workers!  We will transfer the excitement of our original opening, such a short time ago, and pour it into the new foundations.

Habitat and Jasper Artists Guild on the far left

And if that isn’t scary enough, we have taken a deeper dive into the world of advocacy and lobbying for this great industry by making sure our funders and future funders are confident in what we bring to the community of Jasper.  To do that, we have to ‘peel back the hide’ on the carcass of Hab I and ‘pick some bones’ to make sure we are getting every possible scrap of information on what we have done and where we can go with what we know.  What are our strengths?  What are our weaknesses?  (feel free to tell us!)

BUT first and foremost, before we go to the big house…before we go to the bright and shiny ‘in the public eye’ cultural spaces being built just for what we BELIEVE we are…lets define the what and the why.

What will it be?  If we learned anything from the past 14 months it’s that not everything we felt the community needed was needed.  At least not in the form that we presented it in.

Our efforts to include all ages – check.  From wee ones to seniors – they came to be engaged or to share their skills.

Our efforts to tie the arts into as many community and extended community (tourism) events as possible – check. From the annual Jasper in January Festival to the Dark Sky Festival to Heritage Day…we built related workshops or displays and even full on festivals to complement what was there (or missing).

Our efforts to co-ordinate the different organizations in the community through art – check.  Arts Days and the annual Arts with Altitude Festival not only got every possible org from the Folk N Blues Society to Arts Jasper to the Film Club doing what they do best – they did it all over town.

ArtsDays 2011

So that takes care of the WHAT.  Now the WHY.

An initial glance at any ‘arts centre’ initiative and you can deduce that it was about the ‘centering’.  It was about creating a ‘hub’ where information on art, arts groups, arts events, arts education…could be found.  Our passing grade on this – check.  Evidence is in the offshoots of success that can be seen in artists, that are now teaching and sharing their art, that found their audiences and students through Habitat’s ‘people place process’ mandate.  Further evidence is in continued support and lobbying efforts made by IOTAD to keep groups alive, and prospering.  This support reaches far and wide…from reviving ToastMasters (fingers crossed for their continued success…we need great speakers!) to offering volunteer support to Arts Jasper to offering space for community to meet.  Continual searching for funds to enhance and financially support others – instructors, artists and even actors – round out the relevancy of Hab’s ‘centre’.  A lengthy pursuit of ideology and philosophy on the detrimental effects of ‘silos’ in community we wont go into – Jasper’s past ‘silos’ are slowly merging and creating a strong diversified cultural industry.

This industry – in Alberta – is responsible for 3500 jobs and a 1:12 return on investment – turning $13 million dollars (in Alberta Foundation for the Arts grants alone) into $153 million for the Alberta economy.  This impact is felt throughout the province from tourism, accommodations, transportation to agriculture and education.  We find the potential to grow this industry in Jasper very exciting, we find the Town of Jasper’s insightful move to create dedicated ‘cultural spaces’ in the new Library very advantageous.

Ok, this is getting very long…and we still have pictures to post!  One final reason for todays post…to educate those that wonder what Habitat is doing, what we stand for, why…

Almost every conversation we have – be it with teachers or students or seniors or parents or politicians…leads to economics.  Well, while we are not artists in the pure sense – we dont paint, we dont dance [where you can see us], we dont sing –  we sure do dream.  And we believe.  We believe that the arts can be a poignant economic driver if we learn from those that have succeeded, if we listen to those that are trying to tell us something, if we watch the signs and enthusiastically grasp and build on opportunities like a new facility.

People Place Process, IOTAD mantra – put them in whatever order you want.  We believe they are the keys to success.   Not unlike the 3T’s of Creative Class fame.  Talent, technology and tolerance.

Talent: The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live in a more
mobile age than ever before. People, especially top creative talent, move around a lot. A community’s
ability to attract and retain top talent is the defining issue of the creative age.
Technology: Technology and innovation are critical components of a community or organization’s ability
to drive economic growth. To be successful, communities and organizations must have the process for
transferring research, ideas and innovation into marketable and sustainable products. Educational institutions are paramount to this, and provide a key hub institution of the creative age.
Tolerance: Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific and artistic creativity.
Creative workers with these talents need communities, organizations and peers that are open to new
ideas and different people. Places receptive to immigration, alternative lifestyles, and new views on
social status and power structures will benefit significantly in the creative age. Define it as proactive inclusion.

Jasper might be a bit behind on the PROCESS or the TECHNOLOGY to make the arts a viable economic pillar today.  And Habitat II or IOTAD’s dream of a ‘Banff Centre’ atmosphere in Jasper might be a bit reaching…but that’s what we do.  That’s why we are here.  Imagine a world without art.

Advertisements