It’s been quite a year for Esquimalt’s Township Community Arts Council.
Starting with just six members a year ago, the fledging group has grown to 100 members and has hosted five major community events.
Not bad for a few residents who went before township council with cap in hand, looking for some start up money and the hope of hosting two events in 2014.
“It all surprised me – pleasantly and joyfully,” said Morlene Tomlinson, arts council president.
Originally only two events were planned for the community arts group’s first year: Memorial Park Music Fest, which featured local singers and bands for six weeks throughout the summer and the Esquimalt Arts Festival at Gorge Point Park.
Those two events were so popular with residents that more events were added such as Sculpture Splash, Township Classics and artists in residence.
“It was just so much fun. It was a barrel of monkeys,” Tomlinson said. “We were so inspired by the community and the community’s response. It really wasn’t a hardship at all to continue on and do the other good work we did.”
Mayor Barb Desjardins said the arts council went beyond expectations.
Township council expected the group to take at least three years to get up and running. Council granted the group $15,000 in its first year and plans to give it the same in 2015. This year the arts council also qualifies for Capital Regional District arts grants and is planning to apply for more grants through the township.
Desjardins said the arts council was so successful that council didn’t have enough time to create policy around the new group. “They moved well ahead of the bureaucracy of government,” she said.
But there’s no complaints coming from the mayor.
“To do the phenomenal job that they did with the number of events that they did, the community is just absolutely excited to have all those things happen again,” Desjardins said.
Tomlinson said 2015 will be a building year for the arts council, not an expansion year. However, there are already plans afoot for more events in 2016.
“When we talk about promoting arts and artists in Esquimalt we’re taking a very holistic and very, very broad approach,” Tomlinson said.
“We’re trying to offer events and programs that are just a bit different from anywhere else in [Greater Victoria] . Nobody else will do quite what we do.”