Sometimes, the smallest changes make the biggest difference.
For Squamish Arts Council, the decision to move forward with renaming and rebranding efforts was the result of community feedback. Some felt that the organization, which has been around since the 1970s, was due for its image to be refreshed. So they reached out with questionnaires and public events, asking how best to proceed. That’s when they decided to drop the third word in their name, resurrecting themselves as simply Squamish Arts, or SA.
“Our purpose has morphed and grown over time and it was time to capture this in a new strategic plan and branding. We took to the community to see what you’d like to see from us, which resulted in four new strategic priorities and an exciting new look,” the organization posted on Instagram.
“Previously Squamish Arts Council, you’ll now see us around town as Squamish Arts. Same mission and purpose, new name and look.”
A 50-year legacy, revitalized
Since SA was founded in the 1970s, it has been entirely volunteer-led. In recent years, the organization hired first an executive director, Kat Kunze, and then an arts administrator. Now that they have two full-time staff, they’ve been able to professionalize the “small but mighty” operation and strengthen their ties with the District of Squamish, as well as embarking on this revitalization project.
“We went through a long process of identifying who we are today and using that to better define the rebrand,” said Kunze, noting that they received plentiful feedback from the community, with the majority of respondents articulating the same desires. Many expressed interest in creating a well-articulated vision for the future. They were happy to oblige.
“Our new strategic plan is just as important as the rebrand. It really lays out what we’re hoping to accomplish as an organization moving forward.”
The strategic plan covers the years 2022 to 2025, and is available on their website.
Elevating culture and community
To accomplish their agreed-upon goals, the organization teamed up with local artist Alex J. Fowkes, an award-winning graphic and brand designer. He created a number of different designs for SA that can be used in a variety of contexts, whether they’re bound for social media, a poster on the wall somewhere, or in a list of sponsors at a concert.
“For the main wordmark, I was inspired by the need to simplify the brand and purpose while amplifying the organization’s mission around the arts. The new typeface is highly recognizable and will be very unique to Squamish Arts,” said Fowkes.
One of the elements of the branding is an ‘A’ icon, which residents may see shared around social media. If you look closer, it also incorporates a subtle ‘S’, making it SA.
“The combination of Squamish and Arts is part of the inspiration behind this mark. Also, the curve of the S links to the feeling of the Squamish River which cuts through the town. Finally, the mountainous structure of the A echoes the new tagline of elevating culture and community.”
A trifecta of community art events
This branding will affect future programming, including Squamish ArtWalk, which is a celebration of visual art that pairs local businesses with artists to promote their work. This year's art walk will take place across the Sea to Sky from July 1 to 28, with increased programming that highlights the amazing visual and performing artists in our region.
Another revitalized program is Amped in the Park. This series of events gives emerging performance artists a chance to perform, many for the first time, while also receiving training in areas such as sound engineering. The accompanying branding by Fowkes is intended to evoke the fun and approachable nature of the concerts.
One of the signature events of the season will be the Squamish Arts Festival, which was formerly known as Wind Festival for the Arts. Instead of occurring on a single day, the post-COVID program will see two days of festivities as well as workshops held over the course of two weeks. Participants can expect live music and performances, roving entertainers, and a thriving market from August 8 to 20.
Recently, SA was able to work with the District of Squamish on two public art projects. One is a community mural at O’Siyam Pavilion and the other is a sculpture in Rose Park.
Meanwhile Kunze and her team have been keeping busy adjudicating grants for the District of Squamish and creating multi-year agreements about how the institutions will intertwine moving forward. Kunze is thrilled about their progress so far, though the challenge of finding a dedicated arts space still remains.
“We just keep growing and through that growth we’re serving the community,” she said.