Here from the Start: The Community Arts Council

Lynsey Kitching

(l-r) Sherry Berringer and Rose Colledge in last spring’s performance of Titanic. Tumbler Ridge News archives.
Throughout the following months TR news will be featuring different not-for-profit groups outlining their objectives, function and role within the community. 
For our first installment the spotlight is being turned on the Tumbler Ridge Community Arts Council (TRCAC). The purpose of the TRCAC is to promote, develop and advocate the arts in Tumbler Ridge. Its goal is to develop and showcase TR’s talented artisans. This initiative represents individuals and groups from visual artists, performing artists, museums and libraries, craftsmen, authors and anybody else who wants to join in.
Culture goes beyond the arts; it encompasses all that makes up a community.  “Arts and culture covers everything from watching a baseball game on TV to the kids playing hockey. That’s cultural. So it is a huge definition of the word but people tend to think, ‘I don’t like opera, I don’t like classical music, I don’t like ballet,’ frankly neither do I. But we all have somewhere in the arts we enjoy,” says past president of TRCAC Erin Hanna  “The Arts Council is an umbrella group which makes a lot of things possible together with the groups of the community who are arts and culture related.” She continues to explain the importance of the TRCAC within the community, “It’s a big deal for the member groups of the Arts Council because it gives us a chance to unite. To work together so we are on the same wavelength. For the community it’s just a really good source of information, for example, finding musicians for events or visual artists for an exhibition.”
The TRCAC is just getting back into the swing of things as the leaves start to change colours. This means the groups are going to start fundraising to continue their mission. Hanna says, “It’s a labour of love. Fundraisers are how we exist for the most-part. A lot of the things we do we end up eating the cost because you’re trying to provide things for the community that are not going to be expensive so everybody can come and enjoy, often for free.”
For this to be possible, the TRCAC also turns to the government for grants in support. One of their main mandates is to bring to attention the cultural needs of the community to the civic, provincial and federal authorities. 

Hanna says, “Arts council is really active in getting grants so we can continue to do things. We’re not a money-making venture. That’s not what the arts are about.” She continues, “We’ve received grants and aid from the municipality for at least three years. They’re really our only funder. They are the ones who pay for the bulk of the haunted house and also help out with the high school students. They are under our umbrella and get a certain amount of money for their production once a year.” 
Another group which is looking for more funding is the Work in Progress group. Hanna says, “The Work In Progress group is a special-needs youth group. One of our biggest ventures this year will be Black Light Theatre, if we receive a grant called BC Ideas. It is a granting program that deals with projects to enhance social and environmental impact. We are hoping we can purchase necessary equipment and supplies so that the Work In Progress kids can benefit from an existing project modeled after the Famous People Players adult special needs performance group.”
The problem with getting grants is that sometimes, the grants can be very specific. Hanna says, “The way grants can work is that often they are specific to certain projects and organizations. Criteria can be a big hurdle. If you don`t match the criteria or if you`re told the money has to go to things listed that can complicate the availability. 
For instance, the grant may specify that we have to pay a workshop consultant to run a class, when all we really wanted to do was put on an exhibit. It can be too precise.” She continues, “Our current president, Sherry Berringer is a former grant writer and has brought to us several grant applications over the last couple of years.”
If acquiring grants from the municipality fails, there are other avenues available for the TRCAC to find funding. Hanna explains, “We have access to other government funding through parent organizations like BC Arts Council and Arts Now Council, which is another larger provincial group. However, whether you take advantage of this is individual and we have not done so.”
The other obstacle for the Arts Council in receiving funding is the perception of those looking in. Hanna explains, “Honestly, I think everything is population related. If we were in a large city with thousands of people, we would probably have the same percentage of attention and attendance as you would anywhere else. Because we’re such a small population I think it’s misleading.” She continues, “When you get less than 100 people at your event, people say, ‘Why are you doing events? Nobody comes,’ but you have to remember that goes on in a larger population too, there’s just that many more people. Percentage wise, I’d say we do pretty well. There are some things that are wildly popular and some things that are just getting off the ground.”
The TRCAC is a collective of parties, and so far this year, there are about 11 groups under the Arts Council protective umbrella. Hanna says they generally come to the table and let the council know what’s going on. The upcoming holiday season is going to be a busy time for all groups, especially with the best excuse to dress-up as a flesh-rotting killer being right around the corner, Halloween of course. The Drama group will be doing a Zombie walk, a rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show followed by a Halloween dance and the Haunted House. As fall rolls into winter the TRCAC will be preparing for celebrations. Hanna says, “Christmas is probably the biggest thing collectively for us. We’ll be doing the Holly-Jolly Christmas which will include the choir, new children’s choir, drama group and musicians in the community. Visual artists have displays too.”
A good opportunity for members of the community to learn more about the different groups working with the Arts Council is at the ‘Where Art Thou’ event. Hanna says, “Where Art Thou showcases all of the different member groups. There is dancing, musicians, visual artists trying to show the community culture is an integral part of everybody’s life, even if you don’t think it is.”
Within the Arts Council there are people who are in lots of groups, rparticipating in all kinds of fun. Hanna assures, “It’s a pretty healthy amount of people and an extremely lively and fun group of people. We have a lot of laughs around the table. There’s never really too much tension because we’re really representing something that everybody loves. There’s not a lot of politicking and there’s not a lot of reason to disagree. It’s just a good group of people.”
Current Member Groups:
  • TR Cares
  • TR Days Society (Grizfest)
  • Ridge Rippers Quilt Guild
  • Grizzly valley Players
  • TRSS KodiActs
  • Children‘s Choir
  • Adult Community Choir
  • Midwinter Review Crew
  • Work In Progress
  • TR Arts Show Committee

Current and Past Events:

  • Winter Carnival
  • Grizzly Valley Players productions such as Titanic – 100 years, Tea with Liz, Monkman Musings, TR Time Travel, Zone plays, Rocky Horror, Haunted House, and more
  • Adult Community Choir
  • Holly Jolly Christmas
  • Quilter‘s Displays
  • Art Gallery in Community Centre
  • BC Arts and Culture Week
  • TR Junior Idol
  • Fundraising for ourselves and helping other organizations
  • Where Art Thou (artists showcase)
Now that the TRCAC has been looked at under the light, the burning question must be: well, how do I join in? Hanna explains, “We are year-round and you can join anytime. What’s important is you don’t have to be an artist; you don’t have to be somebody who necessarily wants to devour the arts. We need all kinds of people. People who have a financial background, people who just want to see our organization continue, because it’s been here since the ground broke in Tumbler Ridge.” The next scheduled meeting for the TRCAC will be held on October 11, 2012 at the Community Centre in room three from 6-7 p.m. Contact Maureen Sywolos to be added to the phone list and be reminded prior to meetings at 250-242-4174.
Board Members: President Sherry Berringer, Vice President Maureen Sywolos, Treasurer/Secretary Angela Robertson, Recording Secretary Charissa Tonnesen