Invermere’s creative economy booms

Invermere has a booming creative economy, and those in valley’s arts community are keen to see it grow even more.

Invermere has a booming creative economy, and those in valley’s arts community are keen to see it grow even more.

Provincial minster of community, sport and cultural development Peter Fassbender announced B.C.’s new three-year creative economy strategy earlier this month, saying it’s time to recognize the contribution of arts and culture to the province’s economy and to the quality of life of its residents.

As part of the strategy announcement, he also committed $1.5 million in funding during the next three years to help establish shared creative spaces, and a further $300,000 during the next two years for a training program designed to spark new business sponsorship of arts and culture.

Here in the Upper Columbia Valley, residents are already reaping the benefits of this growing sector, according to Columbia Valley Arts Council executive director Jami Scheffer.

“It’s difficult to measure the benefits both in the economy and health of the community when you speak about the creative economy in the Columbia Valley,” she told The Echo. “But when you look around, you can see the outcomes of a creative community. There are many thriving art galleries, both privately owned and non-profit. Many businesses that are art-related fill necessary niches, with art workshops, art supplies and local art sales. There are many, many artists in the Columbia Valley that paint, write, perform, sculpt, dance and more. This valley inspires creative people to be creative.”

Although it can be tricky to define exactly what constitutes a creative economy, Scheffer said that the basis is a healthy cultural community, evidenced here in the valley by the many events in the valley (popular with both locals and visitors) that support culture, including live music, book readings, theatre productions, artist demonstrations and dance recitals.

It’s important to bolster the local creative economy as it promotes cultural tourism, said Scheffer, adding the Upper Columbia is quickly becoming a destination for its cultural experiences. This in turn helps foster and develop even more artists in an ever-increasing positive cycle.

“Also when the economy challenges people to cut back on spending, often cultural experiences are just that, an experience. Experiences don’t require spending money. Simply walking through a gallery (or a series of galleries, such as during valley’s Art Walk), listening to music on the street (buskers), viewing painted murals, watching an artist demonstration — these create an experience that makes people feel good,” she said. “The Columbia Valley inspires artists to be creative. The locals support those artists. The creative economy grows, more business open, more people move to the valley that recognize its cultural character, tourists travel to the valley to experience that character, businesses thrive, artists grow — a full circle of culture.”

Scheffer added that the valley’s strong creative economy is a boon to kids, pointing out that valley youngsters hold art gallery shows, can sing in a choir, perform in a safe venue, learn from art teachers and instructors, and get a job in a gallery, among other artistic opportunities.

The new multi-use centre, on which construction may begin as early as this year, will only further enhance the valley’s creative economy, she said, pointing out that it will “use creative designs and architecture, creating a cultural destination in our beautiful valley that celebrates our creative community. People will want to experience the centre. It will draw all people together in one place for many reasons — a cultural hub.”

According to a Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development press release, B.C. has more artists per capita than any other province, and the number of artists in British Columbia grew by 74 per cent between 1989 and 2013.