Douglas College hosts sneak peek of New Westminster Cultural Mapping Project
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Did you know that New Westminster was once the capital city of British Columbia? Were you aware that the Royal City’s downtown was completely destroyed in what has been known as the Great Fire of 1898?
The truth is that when people think about arts, culture, and history, New Westminster tends to get overlooked as people are attracted to the sights, sounds, and smells of British Columbia’s Olympic cities.
New Westminster’s cultural, literary, and visual arts communities are now coming up with a unique approach to make people aware of the city’s cultural gems, demonstrating that while Vancouver may be the Lower Mainland’s economic hub, New Westminster is a major player in terms of arts and culture.
The New Westminster Cultural Mapping Project, which held a sneak peek event at Douglas College on September 26, is an initiative taken on by the City of New Westminster, the Arts Council of New Westminster, and Douglas College. It seeks to provide Internet-users with an interactive map of the Royal City’s cultural, artistic, and historical assets. The cultural map is all-encompassing, drawing on venues and artists with well-established web presence as well as items fed from social media websites. The map will also include creative professionals in fields such as architecture, graphic design, and furniture makers, as well as performing artists, among others.
Glenn Gordon, the project’s coordinator, said that the New Westminster cultural map will be a first in British Columbia and one of only a handful in Canada. Gordon produced a similar map for the City of Regina.
Gordon added that the goal is to capture “all the creative resources and cultural assets in the Royal City.”
The project, largely funded by the provincial government through a BC Creative Communities Grant, is a great example of an initiative which brings together a community agency and the municipality, as well as Douglas College.
The City of New Westminster has provided technical expertise to the project and will host the map on its web server, while students at Douglas College will provide much of the marketing and data entry necessary to keep the map updated.
Rick Carswell, the New Westminster Arts Council president, said that the project was not as simple as partners and funding sources initially thought it would be.
“New Westminster is full of artists, performers, authors, artisans, painters, dancers—you name it,” said Carswell.
Carswell also remarked that the cultural diversity of the city’s population adds to the city’s vibrancy. New Westminster is home to a number of Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and other South Asian creative minds.
New Westminster counts amongst its residents a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, an Olympic medallist, several musicians, writers, actors, magicians, and even an astronaut. The cultural map will bring to light those whose creativity has yet to be discovered.
The official opening of the cultural map is scheduled for April 2014.