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February 2024

Squamish Arts Future Needs Study

This study was undertaken by studioHub Architects in consultation with Squamish Arts’ management team. We would like to acknowledge and extend our thanks to the many people who contributed to the Squamish Arts Future Needs Study. Thank you to the Squamish residents who took part in the various engagement sessions; the District of Squamish Council for their participation; and the Squamish Arts management team for their input and support.

Squamish Arts would like to recognize that this is a living document and represents the first first step of many toward realizing dedicated arts spaces in Squamish. In its efforts towards reconciliation, Squamish Arts will continue to make space for the voice of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw in this strategy and its subsequent implementation.

To the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Sqiuamish Nation), Chet kw’enmantúmi (We thank you) and are grateful to live on this land.

The Squamish Arts Council honours that the lands on which we live, work and play are the unceded ancestral territory of the Squamish Nation. As an arts council, we work in keeping with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and commit to being active in our work towards Truth and Reconciliation.

Squamish Arts (formally Squamish Arts Council) acts as an arts umbrella for Squamish, supporting local organizations and artists through a variety of programs and initiatives. Historically serving as an umbrella organization, Squamish Arts represents more than 35 local arts, culture and heritage groups. Squamish Arts initiated this study to fully understand the arts infrastructure needs of the Squamish arts community.

For the past several decades, the local arts community has been able to rely on rented spaces within privately owned establishments and unused areas of municipal owned buildings. In the past, the District of Squamish’s (DoS)industrial nature was well suited for creatives seeking affordable spaces with little neighbor interference over issues such as noise or mess. Recent development has brought higher densities and new neighbors, particularly downtown, leaving the arts community to face the reality that many of it’s spaces are no longer viable. Currently creatives face a precarious reality in which they must occupy undersized and poorly located spaces, facing restrictive usage rules and conforming to irregular schedule restraints due to the shared nature of many of the spaces. Squamish Arts has made the best of their situation, hosting popular outdoor events such as the Squamish Arts Festival and Amped in the Park. However, these events are restricted to warmer and dryer months, posing challenges for the arts community to be a part of the DoS’s reputation as an all-season destination.

The DoS has provided Squamish Arts with a 112 sqm building in Junction Park over the past seven years that has housed public washrooms as well as Squamish Arts’ primary office, meeting space, storage space, and public venue. However, the DoS faces it’s own challenges with infrastructure, and the future of this building including the public washrooms is undetermined due to necessary structural repairs. Additionally, the DoS has provided Squamish Arts space at the 55 Activity Centre. While this space is useful for some programming needs, it does not meet all the needs of Squamish Arts or the arts community as a whole.

The Squamish Arts Future Needs Study provides a series of options and recommendations for facility planning for the creative community within the District of Squamish. The recommendations presented within this study are intended to guide decisions on capital investments in a strategic and fiscally responsible way, and provides information and considerations for Squamish Arts when approaching the DoS and other donors or investors about capital planning priorities.

It is Squamish Arts’ primary intention to use this document to spur the creation of a dedicated arts space in the immediate future. What this study seeks to demonstrate is that the DoS needs to plant a metaphorical seed, in the form of a modest multi-purpose arts hub, from which larger arts infrastructure initiatives can grow. The DoS cannot and should not focus their arts facility planning solely around creating a single, big-ticket arts centre. This strategy is not only unhelpful to the current needs of the creative community, as it will most likely be over a decade until it is realized, but also not fiscally sustainable for a community of the DoS’s size.

It must be noted that this document does not discredit the eventual need for a larger arts centre in Squamish. However, this type of facility has been designated as a long-term option. Short- and mid-term options detail facilities which should be given immediate funding priority by the DoS.