Four Squamish Arts Council (SAC) directors resigned recently over what they claim are issues with the group’s leadership, but those remaining say two of the four were already being ousted for absenteeism.
In an unsigned letter to the District of Squamish mayor and council, the departing directors — Stan Matwychuk, Petra Walter, Paul Hudson and John Jervis — stated that although the arts council has successfully progressed over the years, it’s currently not functioning via “proper democratic process.”
“There are a lot of people that are really sort of disenfranchised,” Matwychuk told The Chief.
SAC’s actions have alienated some arts groups, Matwychuk said. The letter, which only included the directors’ first names, points to the art council’s leadership. The chair, Krisztina Egyed, is “acting independently” and “disregarding board decisions,” it stated.
SAC bylaws are inadequate to ensure a democratically run society, they wrote, recommending that SAC membership and the municipality — which this year handed the arts council $50,000 to distribute to local arts and cultural organizations — review the regulations.
“Further to this, we recommend specifically to DOS that any organization potentially receiving funding from the district should be required to include certain clauses in their bylaws (as provided by DOS) that ensure professional and democratic behaviour,” the letter stated.
Jervis and Matwychuk breached SAC’s bylaw, missing numerous meetings, Egyed said. Their absenteeism was raised multiple times and they eventually resigned of their own volition, she said. The directors’ statement is an about turn, Egyed said, noting that before SAC received the district grant, Jervis praised SAC’s management to councillors.
No decisions are made without the board, Egyed said. SAC needs volunteers that understand the organization is busy and that there’s a significant time commitment involved, Egyed said.
SAC has hosted a municipal election all-candidates’ meeting, a children’s event in Alice Lake Provincial Park, received a record amount of money from the district for local arts groups and is redesigning its website. SAC has participated in multiple district workshops and will be putting out the call for artists for new downtown banners. The list goes on and on, Egyed said.
“There are people that we work with that are very happy with us,” Egyed said, adding the recent resignations are upsetting and a waste of time and energy.
The directors’ absenteeism put a load on the board, said SAC director Martin Thorne.
“The amount of volunteer hours that go into [SAC] have been phenomenal,” he said. “We have to up hold some kind of standards.”
This year, SAC didn’t receive municipal money to cover its operating costs, Thorne noted, adding the new board members are determined and excited to overcome the recent challenges.
“This coming year will be a year of growth for us,” he said.
The division in local arts groups marks a change in Squamish’s demographics, Matwychuk said. Moving forward, VISUALS, the Squamish Valley Arts Society, wants to see cohesion in the arts community, the group wrote in a statement.
“Not only arts and culture organizations, but our entire community would benefit from an arts council that could create our cultural footprint by promoting and organizing events with the goal of bringing different disciplines together to attract a broader range of viewer,” VISUALS stated, noting ultimately the district needs to provide a paid arts coordinator.
For the president of Howe Sound Performing Arts Association, SAC is in the midst of doing that.
“For once, Squamish has an amazing arts council,” Aaron Purdie said. “Krisztina Egyed is a huge advocate for arts in general.”
SAC helps so many groups, including Howe Sound Performing Arts, he said. For two years in a row, the council helped fund the Howe Sound Music Festival, which involves approximately 200 youth and 400 parents.
“The SAC makes it possible for us,” Purdie said, noting this year’s $50,000 grant represents the second consecutive year SAC has secured increased funding for local arts.
Egyed’s tireless and passionate work inspired Purdie to become a SAC director.
The Britannia Mine Museum has never had any difficulty with SAC, its executive director Kristin Clausen said. Organizations should look at what they can bring to the SAC rather than the other way around, she said.
With little or no funding, SAC is building a collective vision for the arts community, Clausen said.
“SAC has had success with trying to create a profile of arts, broadly defined, beyond the boundaries of Squamish,” she said.
SAC’s annual general meeting is on Wednesday (July 11), from 7 to 8 p.m. All memberships must be renewed prior to the AGM by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.