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Cultural consortia bolstered by gifted membership

Jasper’s membership into the Creative City Network for 2007 is timely indeed, as Edmonton was this year chosen as the Cultural Capital of Canada for 2007 — more than a pat on the back. As a reult, Edmonton was promptly awarded a $2 million cheque to spend on cultural programming. 

“Jasper’s inclusion into the Creative City Network fits perfectly into their mandate of strengthening Alberta’s collective cultural voice,” wrote Marianne Garrah in an August e-mail to Jasper’s mayor, councillors, and Yvonne McNabb, director of culture and recreation for the municipality. “Along with that membership came some valuable tools offered by the network for mapping and planing our community’s culture resources.”

Garrah, who has been involved in the local arts community since 1982 as a picture framer at Artist’s Own, wrote in the e-mail that she hopes that Jasper’s department of culture and recreation will use the gift to put more emphasis on the cultural aspect of the department — something that, she said, has been lacking in the Jasper community.

“There is a gap in the sustainable dimensions in town. Culture is a cornerstone in society, and you can’t have a balanced structure without culture,” Garrah said. 

Garrah addressed the mayor and councillors at the October 2 regularly scheduled council meeting, bringing forth a myriad of numbers and statistics in an effort to illustrate the emphasis that is put on recreation over culture. 

McNabb pointed out that roughly one quarter of her net operating expenditure can be spent on culture. She encouraged more groups to come to her for help in terms of space, assistance, and grants.

“It’s a matter of organizing the groups,” said McNabb. 

Councillor Joe Couture said he tended to agree with the message of Garrah’s presentation.

“We don’t treat culture the way it should be,” Couture said. “We have to realize that culture is part of our community and you have to work at it.”

Couture said council is at a point where they want input on how to prioritize culture; they aren’t at a point where capital injections are aimed at one specific cultural entity or another.

“Culture needs more input,” he said.

To get that input, McNabb and Garrah are collaborating in an effort to facilitate a meeting in November between all the members of Jasper’s cultural industry partners, using the Creative City Network’s mapping plan to unite Jasper’s various cultural entities under one umbrella.

“Yvonne is gung-ho,” Garrah said, energized by the progress made in emphasizing culture.

“[Culture] is what makes life worth living.”

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