Written by: Johanne Tremblay
Edited by: Lara Evoy
Civic commitment to arts and culture is strong in the City of Richmond. The city council adopted an updated Arts Strategy in 2013 as part of the City’s commitment to work with the community to help Richmond reach its creative potential.
Richmond was one of the first cities to take part in Culture Days in British Columbia, and has played the role of mentor to other Greater Vancouver Municipalities. For the city’s Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Culture Days was “an opportunity to publicly showcase the talent and creativity that exists in our own backyards.” Today, the city acts as program provider, partner, supporter, communicator, and advocate.
The following case study illustrates how the City of Richmond has provided leadership in creating and nurturing a thriving arts community.
Leadership and the City
Richmond is a culturally diverse and geographically unique city located on the Pacific coast of Canada, within Metro Vancouver. With an estimated population of 200,000, of which 60% are of Asian origin, the city works in partnership with local residents, artists and cultural organizations to help sustain and develop cultural and artistic activities and awareness, that include promoting local heritage, skill-development and encouraging individual expression.
In 2010, Richmond jumped on the Culture Days bandwagon as a way to showcase its artistic talent to local and international audiences. As a venue city for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Richmond chose the arts as a way to help create a sense of pride, identity and spirit in the community.
Culture Days is a golden opportunity to showcase our cultural community with a clear message, strong identity and national momentum,” says Liesl Jauk, Manager of Cultural Development and Culture Days coordinator for the City of Richmond.
Click on the video link to listen to Liesl describe how municipalities can encourage cultural engagement.
That first year was a success that surpassed expectations,” says Liesl, “thanks in large part to the Richmond Review and Tourism Richmond who came to the project as promotional partners, eager to work with us to develop a city-wide campaign.”
With Richmond leading the way, two years later in 2012, 403 Culture Days activities were presented in 61 communities in British Columbia, a 95% increase from 2011. Richmond doubled its participation from 33 registered creative events in 2011, to 66 in 2012, which represented 23% of the total 282 activities in the entire Metro Vancouver Area.
For a municipality like Richmond, with an arts and cultural community that is – aside from a few notable professionals – made up mostly of enthusiastic amateurs, schools and clubs, Culture Days is an ideal vehicle for those creators and performers to share their passion with the broader community, and importantly, feel part of something bigger,” says Liesl.
Municipally run venues as diverse as the Richmond Public Library, the Arts Centre Studios, Gateway Theatre, Rooftop Garden, and the Thompson Community Centre have participated in Culture Days, often offering free space for artists to host their activities. Well known Heritage sites have also been brought into the spotlight, including tours of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a National Historic Site that tells the story of the industrial roots of the province.
Top three things needed for a successful event
In 2013, after running three years of successful Culture Days campaigns for Richmond, Liesl underlines three prerequisites for a successful event:
1) a coordinator willing to take charge;
2) like-minded partners and;
3) a well-designed communications plan.
Click on the video link to listen to Liesl talk about the top three things that should be in place for successful participation by a municipality.
The communications plan is useful to both recruit participating artists and promote Culture Days to the local community. Annually, a marketing campaign is launched about five months before Culture Days to build that “something is happening here feeling.” “Play your part” posters and brochures spread the word about activity registration to potential organizers in the late spring and an email campaign to local arts groups keeps them in the loop. In September, posters and brochures are distributed throughout the city and dynamic colour ads run in The Richmond News.
Click on video link to listen to Liesl present the different partnerships the City of Richmond has developed over the years.
Getting the message out
Through the “Play your part” materials and e-blasts, an early registration incentive is offered that provides free promotional support such as listings in a full-colour brochure distributed throughout the city, as well as in a full-page colour ad in the local newspaper for the big weekend. Their activities are also promoted every year in a four-page wrap guide in the Richmond Review’s special “Fall Arts and Culture Preview” issue.
A few days before the Culture Days weekend, the city run Richmond Cultural Centre is transformed into a major Culture Days hub and is fully decorated with Culture Days branded vertical banners, videos, large easel signs with a schedule of events and even a rotating bilingual Culture Days logo gobo light on the floor.
Throughout the Culture Days weekend, volunteer “ambassadors” welcome Cultural Centre visitors and encourage them to check out the many activities taking place. They wear branded pocket aprons, and distribute brochures and other promotional items. Directional posters, balloons, Bright Spot identifiers and front desk staff wearing Culture Days t-shirts all contribute to the festive vibe at this hub of activity.
What’s behind the enthusiasm?
For Liesl, practical reasons are behind this success: Culture Days happens across the country in a well-defined time frame, it provides a flexible schedule that does not require people to keep their doors open for an entire weekend, and it creates an opportunity for people to discover what is happening close to home in a way that is different and fun. Moreover, through the City of Richmond, participating activity organizers are supported and given clear guidelines regarding deadlines. They also receive free, local promotional support for taking part in activities.
Playing the role of mentor
As Manager of Cultural Development for the City of Richmond and as member of the British Columbia Provincial Task Force, Liesl has taken stock of Richmond’s progress, and has noted the “huge excitement” expressed in recent years. Following the City’s first participation in 2010, she has been invited to North Vancouver to talk about the value of Culture Days and has given presentations at conferences about Richmond’s successful Culture Days program.
Last year, following a meeting with City staff and community arts groups, the City of North Vancouver decided to jump on board and branded Culture Days as “North Shore Culture Days,” focusing on the creative activity that occurs in the three municipalities that make up that part of Metro Vancouver. They are currently working to establish North Shore Culture Days as an annual signature event.
Click on the video link to listen to Liesl talk about her experience following the Vancouver launch.
As Culture Days 2013 takes shape in Richmond, many of last year’s event organizers are eager to participate again; the event provides a great platform for communities and organizers to celebrate their own expressions of culture. In Richmond, participants feel that they are “part of something bigger, something that is national,” says Liesl, who contributes to this feeling with extensive communication campaigns and promotional opportunities.
Culture is an integral part of what makes our community so vibrant and we are very proud and excited to be leaders in the national Culture Days movement,” says Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
Municipalities are able to adapt and activate Culture Days in a way that responds to “their own objectives in terms of making arts and culture an integral part of who they are.” Liesl hopes that more and more municipalities take this on. And, after three successful years, for the City of Richmond, Culture Days is “the perfect vehicle, the perfect festival in a box.”
What does your city do to facilitate stronger connections between artists, cultural organizations and the public?
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