By Natasha Serba
You may have heard that the Town of Whitby is developing its first culture plan to help define, support and build its arts and culture sector. At this stage, the Town is looking for input from the community to develop an understanding of how different people define culture, what they identify as cultural assets, priorities, challenges or areas for potential development, and what direction they would like to see the Town take as it grows into the future. There will be lots of opportunities for voicing your opinions and contributing to the development of the culture plan throughout the process. Right now, there is an online survey here where you can have your say, and there will also be opportunities to give input at pop-up tents at various events throughout the summer.
Learning about the development of a culture plan inspired me to think about how I define culture and what I see as integral elements of culture here in Whitby. To start, I see beyond a narrow definition of culture to one that is broader and more inclusive. When I think of culture, I think of quality of life, community, and connection- the things that make Whitby the place where I want to live, connect, and contribute. I see culture as the personality or energy of a place that is defined by its people, environment, values, resources, spaces and activities.
You know how you can walk into a building- say a school or a store, for instance- and immediately get a sense of what it’s like? You instantly know whether or not you feel comfortable, if you will be welcomed or ignored, and whether or not you want to spend some time there and linger. For me, that’s what culture is.
Community is built through culture. It’s the parks, restaurants, shops, festivals, walking trails, historical buildings, rec centres, libraries, and cultural spaces that make up a community and define its distinctive character.
For me, Station Gallery is one of these integral spaces that create connection and build community. It’s a heritage building and an art gallery, but it’s also much more. Through art education programs, Curator’s talks, summer camps, signature events like the Holiday House Tour and Drawing for Art, live music, and community events, Station Gallery brings people together. Artists, children, family, neighbours, and friends all come together at the gallery to engage with culture and create connection.
In addition to being a space to exhibit and celebrate the visual arts, Station Gallery is a hub of energy and activity in our community. It’s a place where diverse people come together and connect through culture. It’s a place for connection. With art. With culture. With each other. Together we engage with art and culture, and through our connection we build community.
If you would like to participate in Whitby’s first culture plan you can complete the online survey at whitby.ca/cultureplan. The survey closes Tuesday July 23. For more opportunities to contribute look for the Culture Plan tent at various community events throughout the summer.