Musicians play outside a shop in downtown Cumberland during the Woodstove Festival. The community wants to become more of an arts hub. Supplied photo

Cumberland looking to arts plan to drive economy

Village is applying again to BC Rural Dividend Program for project funds

Cumberland wants to be more of artists’ hub, and is looking for grant funding to help it do this.

Specifically, the community wants to tap into the BC Rural Dividend Program to help fund the development of an arts and culture action plan.

At a meeting in August, council approved the expenditure of $50,000 for the work, to be paid from $10,000 of accumulated surplus and $40,000 through grant-funding opportunities. It also approved the grant application to the BC Rural Dividend Program. This included a motion to support the implementation of an arts and culture action plan recognizing the role that arts, culture, recreation and heritage play in the community as economic drivers.

If successful, the grant funding will be used for a consultant to develop the plan for the community. The plan is one of the strategies identified already in the Village’s economic development strategy.

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The idea is to create events that draw people and bring money into the community, Cumberland economic development officer Kaelin Chambers told council.

“I’m asking for some budget in order to be approved within the 2020 budget process,” he said.

The plan would consider economic development through the arts. This could include tax incentives for properties used for arts and culture, strategies for further funding of cultural events programming and working with regional tourism organizations to promote the community as a cultural destination.

“There’s a big push in the Ladysmith and the Central Island area around making Vancouver Island an artists’ hub,” he said.

Chambers has looked at other communities that have produced arts and culture action plans, saying the engagement process can become quite involved. Part of the plan would include partnerships, such as a board or cultural round table for networking or event planning, better connections between artists and businesses to encourage arts displays or programs, partnerships with neighbouring communities and better coordination of volunteers for events. It would also take into account potential infrastructure matters such as a public art policy or the creation of facilities such as a band shell.

Chambers needed approval from council to make the August deadline for applications.

“We probably won’t hear again until spring,” he said.

If the community is successful, the work will likely be carried out in spring or early summer in 2020. He was hopeful the community can get obtain grant funding.

“We have had very good success with the Rural Dividend Fund,” he said.

The Village has been successful in applying for economic development initiatives under the Rural Dividend Program since 2016.

“They are very proud of the work that Cumberland’s done with the money the government has provided to us,” Chambers said. “You’re getting a lot of recognition, so I feel very confident that this will be an opportunity we’ll be able to seize.”

Previous successful applications included the economic development strategy for the community, and last year, two priority projects: the development of an investment attraction action plan and the creation of an online economic development portal. All of this work Chambers described as the community’s “investment readiness” work.

Council unanimously supported the motions for the application.

“I think this is very exciting and timely,” Mayor Leslie Baird said. “This is a good news story.”

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