The launch of a pilot artist in residence program at Francis King Regional Park is to be applauded.
The Capital Regional District agreed to allow artist Joanne Thomson use of one of its cabins at the park this winter in exchange for Thomson’s hosting of two public outreach programs that compliment the CRD’s interpretive and cultural work.
It’s a win-win for the parties, and the CRD will evaluate the program later this month to determine whether another artist residency will go ahead in 2016. We certainly hope this happens.
A similar program through the elected Vancouver Park Board has been offering two-year artist residencies through its network of fieldhouses, which had been underutilized prior to that pilot program launch in 2011.
Vancouver’s program provides studio space to artists with community engaged or social practices at no charge in exchange for 350 hours per year of community-engaged arts practices and projects. Writers, composers, musicians, poets, choreographers, visual and digital media artists and even theatre groups can apply for the space. Artists must work with a range of community members and work can spill from the studio to surrounding parks and partner community centres.
The application process is exhaustive, as competition for the space has proven fierce. The park board has even put a few stipulations on engagement themes it values and asks specifically for artists interested in food security, environmental initiatives and creative practices “that encourage a relationship with nature.”
The model is ripe for expansion to Greater Victoria, as long as the CRD can find the space to host within its parks. At the very least, the artist residency at Francis King should be nurtured and championed as a catalyst for re-imagining park space across the region.