The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford is among the local arts and cultural organizations that participated in shaping the city’s new culture strategy.

The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford is among the local arts and cultural organizations that participated in shaping the city’s new culture strategy.

Abbotsford council adopts city’s first culture strategy, covering the next 20 years

Initiative provides a roadmap for growing community’s arts and culture services

Abbotsford council has adopted the city’s first-ever culture strategy to provide a framework for cultural facilities and assets over the next 20 years.

The strategy, titled Culture Connect, has been in the works since July 2019 and was adopted at the March 7th executive meeting of council.

But it wasn’t without its challenges. The leaders of several prominent cultural organizations were critical of an initial report, released in late 2020, that they said failed to stress the need for more cultural infrastructure.

In a long letter to the city, they said they were worried that the first phase of work had resulted in the sense that “the status quo will be maintained.”

These groups included The Reach Gallery Museum, the Abbotsford Arts Council, Gallery 7 Theatre and Performing Arts, and CIVL Radio.

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Mayor Henry Braun said in early 2021 that subsequent meetings with those key cultural groups had gone well and were “very productive.”

Braun referenced those issues at the March 7th council meeting.

“We hit a few bumps in the road … but I think, as a result of that persevering and moving forward … we have a better final product. I’m not unhappy that we had those challenges, which sharpen us,” he said.

The strategy identifies four main goals, 10 objectives and 54 action items. It will be updated every five years “to ensure the objectives and actions remain relevant and responsive to community needs,” it states.

The four goals are related to municipal leadership, spaces and places, connections and community, and offerings and awareness.

The action items include: updating the city’s heritage management plan, developing educational heritage opportunities, completing an audit of city-owned or -managed facilities, conducting a needs assessment, and encouraging private investment in public art.

The Indigenous community is also highlighted, with action items that include supporting a greater understanding of traditional peoples, and researching, identifying and recognizing Abbotsford’s colonial history.

“Ultimately, the strategy establishes the vision for culture in Abbotsford – not only what we want our programs, services and places to look like, but what we want our cultural identity to be,” the strategy states.

The plan lists the initial “five big moves” that will be undertaken: COVID-19 culture recovery, Indigenous engagement, a governance review of culture services, updating Abbotsford’s cultural policies, and boosting awareness of local cultural providers.

RELATED: Mayor says meetings with Abbotsford cultural organizations went ‘very well’

Councillors said they were excited to see the plan come to fruition and were appreciative of all the work that went into it, including through stakeholder and public engagement.

Coun. Dave Loewen said Abbotsford has a “diverse cultural makeup” that defines the community.

“This strategy moves our community towards a path of bringing the cultural gaps that exist within our community together … I believe that a strategic initiative such as this can go a long way in building a stronger, wiser and kinder community,” he said.

Coun. Patricia Ross said Culture Connect complements other city strategic plans, such as the Urban Forest Strategy.

“They’re all making our community better, more livable, more harmonious and welcoming for all … I’m excited about our potential for the future,” she said.

Initial implementation is expected to cost $200,000, including the hiring of a full-time culture services manager. There is no set timeline for the start, as it is dependent on budgeting and prioritizing with other city initiatives such as flood recovery, says a staff report to council.

The final culture strategy can be viewed at abbotsford.ca(search “Culture Connect).



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The Abbotsford Arts Council, which holds shows at Kariton Art Gallery, was among the local arts and cultural organizations that participated in shaping the city’s new culture strategy.

The Abbotsford Arts Council, which holds shows at Kariton Art Gallery, was among the local arts and cultural organizations that participated in shaping the city’s new culture strategy.