Faced with shortage of cultural space, White Rock tries to get creative

The city working to connect local small businesses with artists as a short-term solution


By Clarissa Kurniawan

Two years after White Rock approved a plan to promote culture and build more arts infrastructure in the municipality, some locals say there has been little progress.

“There aren’t a lot of new places dedicated for arts purposes being created,” said Greg Smith, a local art curator. “Secondly, the city’s policy with regard to developers has not made the contribution of art space a priority.”

In April 2021, White Rock’s previous city council approved a cultural strategic plan, titled “Our Creative City by the Sea.” The plan, described as “an arts and culture road map for White Rock,” mentions that White Rock only had a single building dedicated to arts purposes, the Black Box Theatre, and while some recreational spaces were sometimes used for the arts, this was described as a “short-term solution.” For that reason, one of the plan’s goals is “to develop and implement a cultural infrastructure plan as a high priority.”

Smith said that in the meantime, people have been showcasing their artwork in the yards of people’s homes, which he says can be both good and bad.

Smith believes city hall should compel real estate developers to donate towards arts activity in White Rock as part of the development approval process.

Many new multi-storey apartment buildings have been recently built around White Rock, he said, and he would like to see developers “kick in a little money for things like the arts when they’re getting their permit.”

White Rock has a much smaller population than the neighbouring city of Surrey, which spends far more on the arts, Smith said. “The real reason for the problem is that we have a small population.”

The city attempts to provide some creative outlets

White Rock Coun. Michele Partridge, a member of the cultural advisory committee, said the city has tried to connect small businesses with artists. Partridge cited the example of a restaurant opening, which might look to book performers.

The city still has limited theatre space, Partridge said, but local coffee shops will often have different musicians performing, and display the work of artists and photographers.

Partridge said there is widespread community support for the arts among all age groups in the city.

“Art binds the community, and every community needs that,” she said. “It’s a way of collaboration between public spaces and artwork.”


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