The creation of the newly developed Culture Plan has quite the history, which involved teams, committees, community groups, city staff, senior city staff, mayors, city counselors, and many others. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many people of different stripes come together to collaborate and share ideas, form an agreement and act on it. Culture can be difficult to define.
Culture, simply put, is what we celebrate. What is remembered, what is repeated and what is loved is culture. This could be our ethnic history, hockey, favourite TV shows, War Craft, dancing, scuba diving, art, green fields in which to picnic, trees, greasy hamburgers, pot luck parties, LGBT dances, shags, Christmas, bonfires – culture is just about everything that you like to do regularly. That so many were able to discuss what culture means to the City, and how to move forward is very commendable.
A plan that looks to accentuate what this city has and to give to it what is needed can be complicated by what we think is important or not worth celebrating, and of course whatever political or economic ramifications are involved. So a plan will not be perfect for everyone, as complaints have and will continue to surface, but at least the start taken and the plan made is an exceedingly excellent one, something that other cities can only dream of.
The plan that is the “strategic document” for the City was initiated in 2010. It is intended to help build the city, to make Thunder Bay more culturally relevant for its citizens and for the City’s future prospects.
The Office of Urbanism in association with AuthentiCity worked with two decades worth of arts, culture, and heritage policy developed by the city and many others in order to form this plan.
The plan is broken into six parts, describing that those involved will:
1. Foster Capacity in the Culture Sector, which means developing partnerships with corporate entities to obtain funding and figure out the who, how, where and when, of the finances.
2. Develop Tourism Potential in the Creative Community, by “supporting collaborative efforts for enhancing tourism opportunities,” etc.
3. Activate Culture in Urban Places and Spaces, which means supporting year round festivals and other events, with a schedule and resources for both ends of the city.
4. Enable Cultural Participation in Neighbourhoods, by bettering programming, public policy, and coming up with new initiatives.
5. Nurture Cultural Interaction and Exchange in Public Spaces, by bringing all kinds of different people together in communal spaces, whether of different ethnic backgrounds, income levels, ages, etc. (i.e., traditional Town Square functions).
6. Foster the Potential for Creative Entrepreneurship in Youth, by providing “small business support for artists and creative entrepreneurs” and finding spaces for such creative activities in order to activate development programs and create potential cultural industries. An example of this might be the film students who are sticking around in town to create their own film businesses.
The plan has passed the “Assessment and Visioning” stage and has implemented many of the policies created as it moves forward. Policies go back as far as 1991, with the Arts and Heritage Policy. Policies get revised over time and others are created as new challenges come up.
It can sound rather complicated, but such is the nature of democracy, that in order to keep most everybody happy rules have to be made. If it were up to a dictator, things would move faster. When Napoleon III decided to beautify Paris he and his “prefect” Baron Haussmann razed entire neighbourhoods without giving the poor people who lived there any other option than to get out of the way. Democracy, by its nature, works a little slower.
Presently, the “Inspire Thunder Bay Culture Plan Strategic Implementation Team” met a week ago to start implementing the plan. Jennifer Morin, (Cultural Services Coordinator) who works with Leah Bayly, (Supervisor of Cultural Services and Events) was hired this year for this new position to help direct the plan. Their names will crop in future articles on culture in Thunder Bay, as will many others involved in the Culture Plan.
Writing on this topic is a bit overwhelming as the plan encompasses so much that is of cultural value to the city, and involves all kinds of notable locals. Over the summer I will endeavor to write more about the people involved. The plan itself can be seen at www.thunderbay.ca/cultureplan.