2014 – 2016 Westside Culture Days
- Coordinated triple government Culture Days and Provincial Launch for 2016
Initiated, coordinated and MC’d Arts & Culture All Candidates Forum 2015 Election
- Initiated, coordinated/led Westside Culture Days 2014 to present, resulted in #1 across Canada in population sector 2015
- Initiated Westside Culture Days between artists, businesses, West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation which resulted in Sukwtemsqilx’w West Kelowna Arts Council
- Encouraged The Nations Gallery, the first Westside First Nation art gallery since the 70s
- Gained cooperation from local paper to write 8 articles leading up to event
What was the result of 2014 Culture Days?
Enthusiasm Empowerment Education Engagement
The 2014 Culture Days may have been the 5th for Canada, but it was the first for our very spread out community. There are two governments that co-exists on over 130 square kilometres of land on the westside of the bridge over Okanagan Lake and combined, less than 32,000 residents. Kelowna, on the east side of Okanagan Lake in the Central Okanagan is fairly solid and developed culturally, and then there’s us – Westbank First Nation (WFN) and District of West Kelowna (DWK).
Our businesses and citizens are interspersed amongst both governments; some live on one and work on the other and vice versa. The Westbank First Nation, while self determining since 1990, has been self governing only since 2003, and the District incorporated only in 2007. Our entire westside is full of strip malls, many spaces empty because of the economy, or because of other reasons.
In past Culture Days, our westside cultural entities usually got involved in what was happening in Kelowna. This year however, myself, a visual artist from DWK, Melissa Brown, business owner of Blenz Coffee Westbank Shopping Centre, and Tracy Satin, WFN Heritage Officer, got together and decided to make some changes.
Celebrating our resources and our individual identities, and with enthusiasm and vision, we brought our two communities of WFN and DWK together. The infrastructure for supporting this kind of undertaking on the westside is non-existent so we encouraged sharing by word of mouth, emails, newsletters and social media.
The focus was on bringing more awareness on how many cultural resources we had and we did that through the support of the businesses on the westside. Each business, and each artist or group took the initiative to be involved and took control of their own success. It’s almost like they were waiting for the chance to open their doors. There was much education involved with business and artists working together, and artists learning how to market themselves. Artists helped the business as the business helped the artists. Community members were encouraged to shop local, and discovered businesses they did not even know were there. The impact of cultural support from the business increased the cultural commerce and respect for the “local artist”. Many attendees, some even from Kelowna, were amazed at our cultural wealth on this side of the bridge.
With almost a hundred artists, musicians and dancers and over forty businesses involved, both groups felt empowered at the possibility of change in their community. Nine locations were created across this over 130 square kilometres with each location a cultural destination. Where before there were empty spaces in shopping malls, they were filled, with the empty space being given for free by the landlords to facilitate pop up galleries and pop up dance studios. One particular exciting development was a First Nation pop up art gallery with seven First Nation artists, the first one on this side of the lake since the early 1970s. What an accomplishment for Pat Raphael, their coordinator!
Where before on the westside there was almost a forlorn hopelessness and feeling unable to make a difference, afterwards there seemed to be excitement and a rejuvenation of attitudes. Through the process and in the final outcome, we had connections with each other, developed a stronger sense of a unified community through the cooperation and collaboration, and partnerships with each other. We got the westside community talking, interacting and present.
We knew we had won before Culture Days even began.