Working on city council is a privilege and provides a unique education in civic needs, values, and communities.
Vancouver is a remarkably beautiful city, and beyond that celebrated beauty is a community filled with talents both world-renowned and locally beloved. I have worked as a professional artist, arts administrator, and advocate for over 30 years. I found that as the first professional artist ever elected to a city council, I was able to bring an in-depth knowledge of arts, culture, and heritage issues to the council during my term from 2005 to 2008.
Cultural industries and nonprofit organizations are critically important economic generators for the city. They contribute immeasurably and measurably to the quality of life in our city, and it is indeed rare for a council to obtain unfiltered information in order to make the best decisions regarding those institutions.
Having worked in major cities like New York and London, I was able to bring new ideas forward, such as the poet laureate and Vancouver 125 anniversary celebration, as well as champion and support local innovation though the Junos and the Police and Fire Games. Gaining support for the arts at a regional level is critical, and we achieved that with the formation of the inaugural arts and culture committee for Metro Vancouver.
Arts, culture, and heritage issues affect every corner of our lives. Their depth of reach is astounding from education to eco-art, from architecture to community arts.
My experience in the professional theatre as founder and artistic managing director for Carousel Theatre Company and School made me hugely aware of the many needs of families and children in our community. Building theatres made me aware of development issues and the need for amenities in a growing city. Arts organizations are the original green industries; reuse and recycle being the by-words for every performing arts group. Working in constant collaboration as most performing artists do taught me the skills of negotiation and teamwork, both of which I brought to city council.
Understanding the need for both the ability to listen and a creative vision on council, I was able to initiate successful programs with increased funding, and to encourage and find support for good ideas direct from the community like the Mayor’s Arts Awards.
I was able to bring cultural concerns to the table at every possible instance thereby bringing attention and vastly increased civic investment in arts, culture, heritage and tourism programming.
Vancouver needs genuinely informed councillors to make intelligent decisions regarding arts and cultural spaces. I have spent over three decades dealing with these challenging issues. My knowledge, gleaned both as a working artist and as a board member, proved hugely important to both council and staff. The ability to positively negotiate on behalf of the city with other levels of government led to new program and capital funding, an example being the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. We desperately need that negotiation now.
In order for our cultural organizations to flourish, they need stability, multi-year funding decisions, programs that support multicultural and First Nations programs, and a determined creativity in all decisions that affect the daily business of an artistic organization.
I want to create a new council truly dedicated to the arts as an integral part of city life. A truly successful council will be informed, genuinely passionate, and supportive of arts and ideas. This council will lead the way to a magnificent city.
Elizabeth Ball is a Non-Partisan Association candidate for Vancouver city council.