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Community Spotlight: Quesnel, BC

Culture Days

May 10, 2023

Meet our Organizers Series

As a continuation of the Meet the Organizer series, the Community Spotlights bring stories of communities across Canada and how they have adopted Culture Days as their own. This Blog series talks about the different ways in which these event organizers bring their communities together through arts, culture and heritage experiences.

Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council
Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council

Quesnel is a north-central community in British Columbia with beautiful rural areas, a small city centre and a vibrant and diverse community. Quesnel Culture Days has been led by the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council since 2015 and today receives municipal funding and support. Throughout the years, Quesnel Culture Days has featured a lineup of events that have grown to become local favourites including the Downtown Quesnel Art Walk, Art in my Park, Beyond the Orange Shirt Day, and the Sidewalk Chalk Challenge, which runs in cooperation with School District 28.

We had the opportunity to chat about Quesnel Culture Days with Cathy Heinzelman, the President of the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council – a volunteer-run non-profit organization that strives to serve the citizens of the North Cariboo in Central British Columbia by promoting arts, culture and heritage in their community.

Can you tell us about your work and the communities you engage with?

We engage with a variety of arts, culture and heritage groups, individual artists and folks simply interested in the arts. The population of Quesnel is diverse, including many people from Indigenous communities including the Esdilagh, Nazko, Kluskuz, and Lhtako Dene, as well from Francophone, South Asian, Philippine, and Sikh communities.

We support a large number of artists and writers in our community by providing bursaries for students pursuing post-secondary education in the arts, project funding for individuals and organizations and other types of support.

We partner with a variety of local organizations and individuals to program art shows, craft markets, and other type of events during Culture Days, and support the Memorial Pow Wow, Truth & Reconciliation Day (Orange Shirt Day), and Farmer’s Market Hubs. We also collaborate with School District/City partners to hosts a Chalk Challenge contest for elementary school students, and an upcoming Independent Author’s Day event and writing competition.

Beyond Orange Shirt Day Event. Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council
Beyond Orange Shirt Day Event. Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council

How did the Quesnel Arts Council first participate in Culture Days? What are some highlight events for you?

We began participating in Culture Days in 2015 to help promote the members of the Council and our programming. Throughout the years, we have continued to invite more and more arts organizations to participate and Quesnel Culture Days has continued to grow.

The introduction of the Art Walk four years ago became an important opportunity to partner with more local groups, and a space where to feature new or emerging artists. We have received the support of our local Business Improvement Association to expand the Art Walk to the Art Trail – an event showcasing the work of artists partnered with local businesses. We are happy to promote events like these where local artists can have spaces to promote their work and network with other like minded folks.

This year as part of the Quesnel Culture Days Hub, we will present a free meet and greet with the artists and production crew (Indigenous Angles) of “Bear Grease” an Indigenous twist on the musical Grease. Offering this free Meet and Greet is important to create opportunities where community members and professional artists can connect, and invite audience members to the show.

How do the arts and culture activities offered by the Council promote building community?

We’ve been using the arts to connect with many different members of our community. Being involved in City events has widened the visibility of the Arts Council, our programs, and attracted more support.

For example, for one of our concert series and music festival events, we work in partnership with family service groups in town so local musicians can provide live entertainment at no cost to children and families.

We also partner with art teachers in public schools to help facilitate hands-on workshops led by local artists and the mural committee – which works with the junior high school students to create murals in the community. Most recently, we have been connecting through the arts with the youngest in our communities by partnering with groups such as Literacy Quesnel, Quesnel Library, the Rotary Club and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library – where over 250 children currently receive a free book monthly.

Quesnel Culture Days concert with Kym Gouchie. Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council
Quesnel Culture Days concert with Kym Gouchie. Photo courtesy of BC Culture Days and the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council

A community cannot thrive without the arts. I have been involved with community theatre and witnessed families growing and working together to provide wonderful shows that warm you up even during the bleak winter months.

Quesnel has an incredible and long list of performing arts groups, arts associations, societies, and guilds that need venues to present their work and practice their crafts in. Our city lacks venues and spaces for arts and culture events, and with limited resources, mill closures, and lack of government support, we at the Arts Council have committed to finding ways around this and support the presenting and practicing of the arts.

This year, Quesnel, BC will be the host city for the launch of BC Culture Days with the Quesnel & District Community Arts Council as lead organization for the festival hub! What can you tell us about this year’s launch and lineup of events for the hub?

It was a great honour to be asked to be the ‘Kick-off Host’ for BC Culture Days this year! September 23rd will be a full day of activities, food, and music at this outdoor launch event at Spirit Square.

We will have many exciting events starting with an official greeting, prayer and opening with community Elders. A line-up of musicians including country and drum groups will perform throughout the day. Some other activity highlights include a tour around the new mural projects, the official opening of the Art Trail, the Chalk Challenge, and a special ceremony recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Arts Council.

Make sure to check out other events outside of the launch weekend happening at the Quesnel Culture Days Hub!

Follow BC Culture Days and stay tuned for the full Launch event line-up!