Jock Hildebrand reveals plans for the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery at a gathering held at Blue Grouse Winery on the weekend. (Photo by Dorian Melton)

Business notes: New public art gallery will bring economic benefits to Cowichan Valley

“The Valley will have a precious intellectual and cultural treasure that will enrich us”

Inside the world class art that is being created in the Cowichan Valley by internationally acclaimed sculptors and painters lies a strong economic benefit.

In revealing details of an ambitious plan to build a 25,000 to 30,000 square foot public art gallery, Jock Hildebrand made the case for a gallery that would make a huge contribution to the Valley’s cultural and economic well-being.

“This very special public art gallery will enrich and forever change the cultural horizon in the Valley and on the whole of Vancouver Island,” Hildebrand told a gathering at Blue Grouse Winery on the weekend.

“The Valley will have a precious intellectual and cultural treasure that will enrich us, children adults and seniors alike.

“This project promises to bring other assets into our Valley. In these days of loss of natural resource jobs and resources, our community must look for other ways of sustaining ourselves,” he said.

Hildebrand, who is president of the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery, says the project will take up to 10 years to come to fruition but the initiative is off to a rousing start.

“The not-for-profit Green Door Society and our project are drafting a letter of intention,” Hildebrand told the gathering that included local politicians, artists and supporters.

“The agreement will allow the Green Door Society to gift our gallery project with their assets, including the Green Door property.

“We will endeavour to gradually turn the building into an art gallery,” he said, adding the heritage value of the building in downtown Duncan will be respected as will the needs of existing tenants.

Hildebrand says its an exciting first phase development for a project that will allow the region to enjoy the same type of benefits enjoyed around the world. He referred to a study conducted by Cultural Times, a UNESCO initiative, that discovered cultural and creative industries generate $250 billion a year in revenue, creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide.

“The report helps demonstrate the value of arts and culture and it provides a good rationale for government support of the industry,” Hildebrand said.

The CVRD and the City of Duncan have provided letters of support for the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery project and North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring was on hand to add his support but cautioned there was no monetary commitment at this time.

Publicly funded arts councils, MP Alistair McGregor, MLA Sonia Furstenau and Jean Crowder, former MP and honorary chairperson of the Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery, have also given their support to the organization that has about 150 members.

“While jobs can be created by many economic activities, cultural industries can generate these same economic assets,” Hildebrand pointed out.

“Cultural capital is one. This is defined as the sum total of a community’s wealth or stock of art, heritage and other kinds of cultural expression.

“Like other kinds of capital, it needs to be invested in; otherwise it will depreciate and be devalued over time.”

Hildebrand says businesses have discovered that a successful strategy for attracting young, creative professionals is the promotion of a region’s creative and artistic assets.

“Studies indicate that millennials value work/life balance and quality of place to a far higher degree than previous generations.

“To respond to this new reality, there is scarcely an economic development professional in the country that is not ready to promote the quality of life in their region as one of their economic development strengths.

“The health of our future community relies on creating an innovative, beautiful, and thoughtful environment that people want to live in,” Hildebrand said.

Island Savings Credit Union is already on board as a financial contributor and other sponsors include BC Marble, the Cowichan Intercultural Society, and the Shibui Gallery.

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