Nurturing arts and culture

March 09, 2006, volume 35, no. 5
By Michael Boxall

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Arts and culture add alot to a city's quality of life, but they need to be nurtured and encouraged.

Since 2002, that has been the job of the Creative City Network of Canada (CCNC), a Vancouver-based non-profit organization supporting people with cultural development and planning responsibilities working in municipal departments of 100 cities and communities across the country.

As part of the network's research into ways to incorporate culture and creativity into community planning initiatives it has now set up the Centre of Expertise on Culture and Communities (CECC), a three-year initiative housed at SFU Vancouver's Harbour Centre campus and headed by adjunct professor Nancy Duxbury. The centre is funded by Infrastructure Canada and the department of Canadian heritage.

"One objective is to strengthen the capacity of municipalities to take a proactive role in the cultural development of their communities," Duxbury says. "We provide tools and support to the staff, as well as information sources. In some cases these are directed to elected officials so they can become familiar with things other cities are doing already."

The centre has a three-part mandate. The first is research into culture as the fourth pillar of sustainability (along with economics, environment and social networks). The second part examines the existing state of cultural infrastructure in Canadian cities and communities and the third studies their impact.

The knowledge generated will be passed along through building and linking of networks among a range of stakeholders and repackaged into appropriate forms for various audiences.

Research will be helped by the centre's affiliation with SFU's centre for policy research on science and technology. The SFU link has also helped in making connections with students and faculty interested in these topics, and in setting up a series of monthly cultural research salons.

These networking sessions are open to faculty and students from both SFU and UBC, as well as to members of the public.

Duxbury says that while a lot of effort often goes into building and setting up a cultural facility, often less thought is given to its sustainability and the ways in which it fits into a community's overall development plans.

But that is starting to change, as the role of culture and creativity in the economy and in fostering social cohesion becomes better recognized.

"One big trend now is the integration of culture into larger planning processes. You have to create a sense of community on an on-going basis," Duxbury says. "Cultural facilities and a cultural infrastructure can be an important new key (to cohesion) in an increasingly multicultural society."

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