Artist Serge Mozhnevsky poses with his sculpture, one of six pieces making up the 2017 public sculpture exhibition. An all-candidates forum later this month will focus on integrating arts and culture with future planning for Penticton. File photo

Artist Serge Mozhnevsky poses with his sculpture, one of six pieces making up the 2017 public sculpture exhibition. An all-candidates forum later this month will focus on integrating arts and culture with future planning for Penticton. File photo

Penticton election forum mixes arts and politics

Candidate forum brings arts and culture to the political discussion

Along with the usual wide-ranging all-candidates forums, Penticton is going to have at least one with a laser focus for the fall municipal election.

Robin Robertson is the driving force behind a forum where all the questions for the city council candidates will be on the subject of arts and culture.

“I’ve been a supporter of the arts for a long time,” said Robertson. “I’ve been interested in the impact of arts and culture, and the effect of its presence, its lack thereof, on the community.”

Robertson is one of the promoters of the public sculpture project in Penticton, which has brought a range of sculptures to city streets over the past three years. Working with the city to get funding for the project took a lot of discussions.

“That took a lot of pushing and cajoling. I am really interested in a city council that really understands the importance of arts and culture, so I thought I would hold a forum,” she said. “We really want to hear people’s opinions, because we want people in there that understand the importance of arts and culture.”

Related: City of Penticton continues public sculpture exhibit

Robertson is moderating the Sept. 20 forum, which is being supported by the Penticton and District Arts Council as part of the Arts Rising Festival.

It will take place at 7 p.m. at Cannery Brewing, which is sponsoring the event.

“I would like to get deeper than the whole notion of ‘gee, I like art;’ to have people that have actually thought about the fact that in the age we are in, innovation is critical and what stimulates innovation in our culture,” said Robertson.

“Support of arts is one of the ways we stimulate innovation. We get new ways of looking at things. We get creative ideas out in the community.”

Arts and culture isn’t often thought of as an economic driver, but Robertson points out that places with a strong arts and culture vibrancy to them have a positivity to them that attracts people and that becomes an economic driver.

“In Penticton, we are so blessed with natural resources and the wine industry and we have a real attraction for a lot of sports events,” said Robertson.

“It is not that the arts and culture hasn’t had a strong presence, it has. I would really like to see it not as an afterthought, but as an integrated piece of our thinking of how we plan our city going forward.”

Robertson is looking for thoughts on how Penticton can better support arts and culture as part of its growth strategy.

“There is a need for funding. Compared to a lot of other cities our size, we support the arts in some ways, but we don’t have any dedicated staff,” said Robertson. “One of the reasons there wasn’t any funding in the past is because no one took it to the budget table. It just got left off the table.”

And though the Official Community Plan revision process has acknowledged arts and culture, she says it could be more integrated.

“We need the OCP to identify arts and culture as part of what is important,” said Robertson. “I think we can make the whole presence of that in the OCP much more robust. We need to make sure it is part of our planning and permitting piece in the city.

“There is so much we could do to make the city more beautiful in the sense of beauty being based in the infrastructure.”

She’s also hoping this arts and culture forum will get the candidates thinking.

“We have to ask them to have that kind of thought process, we raise their awareness in a way, so once they are in office they look through the lens of arts and culture, as opposed to it being an afterthought,” said Robertson.

Robertson said that though she hasn’t finalized all the questions yet, she is planning to give them to forum participants ahead of time.

She’s asking people registering to run for mayor and council to contact her through the PDAC at 250-492-7997.

“They can register there and I will be in touch with them,” Robertson said.

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce also has an election forum scheduled, for Oct. 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Days Inn Conference Centre.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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