The Salmon Arm Arts Centre has been the site of many thoughtful events and exhibitions over the past year, with more planned for 2020. (File photo)

‘Decolonizing’ Salmon Arm Arts Centre one of several unique projects in 2020

The year’s events will include a festival celebrating LGBTQ arts

Decolonization, engaging young people, solar power and celebration of LGBTQ arts are just a few areas of focus for the Salmon Arm Arts Centre this year.

Tracey Kutschker, director-curator at the centre, recently recapped for city council the centre’s 2019 projects as well as what’s on the agenda for 2020.

One of the next “big ideas” for the centre concerns landscaping, she says.

“It has been a bit challenging. We’d like to consider further investing into what we’re calling ‘the decolonization’ of the building. It’s a very colonial-looking building and our messaging is very structured and European. So we’re thinking about ways we can change the messaging without changing the historic look of the building.”

Kutschker explained that one of the arts centre’s projects is to consider changing the gardens around the building to have only native plant species. Maybe fruit-bearing ones, she said, so there’s an educational opportunity.

Inside the building, plans include an inaugural festival of arts and education celebrating LGBTQ arts. She said staff have been participating in an excellent committee made up of representatives from different organizations, with everyone working hard to make sure the festival is successful.

She says it will be able to bring awareness and visibility in a way that can be challenging to do in other arenas, but is possible via the arts.

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This year will also include what Kutschker described as a really exciting summer exhibition that includes an audio piece by Phil McIntyre-Paul.

One project over the past two years that came to fruition last month was the installation of solar panels on the roof of the arts centre.

She says a monitor inside will display a BC Hydro net metering account, which shows hour-to-hour power generation and allows comparisons with other blocks of time. In the spring, Riverside Energy Systems, which installed the system, will send a crew to do a drone video of the panels on top of the building.

Mayor Alan Harrison said he was pleased to hear about both plans, because part of the city’s support for the system was in order to provide a way for residents who are interested to learn about solar power.

Kutschker showed a graph illustrating steadily increasing attendance at the arts centre by school groups since 2015, climbing to 2,000 students in 2019.

She said change has come with the centre’s focus on climate change, and its direction moving more towards having an experience and less on creating art.

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One event seeing less participation has been Wednesdays on the Wharf (WOW). It saw a high of 8,100 attendees in 2015, which dropped from 7,250 in 2017 down to 4,500 in 2018 and 4,025 in 2019. However, both of the last two years saw an increase in donations.

Kutschker pointed out that for its first 20 or 22 years, WOW had no competition. Now, there are summer outdoor music events every night in the Shuswap. She said a lot of venues are spending a lot more money on their performers than WOW. But, if donations continue to increase, which has happened with the implementation of a new way of paying, she’s hoping it might be possible to pay performers more.

Council expressed appreciation for all the projects and exhibitions the art centre accomplished in 2019.

With specific reference to the focus on climate change, Kutschker remarked: “There are lots of things that are not necessarily big splashy items, but we’re always working on things that are fundamentally changing our processes to just be really thoughtful, really forward-thinking, creative people.”

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