Candidates who participated in the recent Creative Airdrie Society Arts & Culture political forum were all provided an opportunity to share the written answers to our questions, after the fact.  We have committed to post those that provide us their update.

My name is Marie Lauer, I have lived in Airdrie for 26 years. I am happily married to Stacey; we celebrate our 30th anniversary next June. We have two daughters – Alison is an RN working in Grande Prairie, and Erika is finishing her 4th year of a business degree at the University of Lethbridge. I have worked at the City of Airdrie (Community Developer), the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce and currently work with the Airdrie Angel Program. I have volunteered in this community for 26 years and was the 2015 Soul of Airdrie recipient (Volunteer of the Year). I love Airdrie and I want what’s best for it.

Q.  What types of arts and cultural activities have you been involved with, and to what extent do they still play a role, or have impacted your life today?

A. I have been involved in a number of arts and cultural activities through out my 53 years. As a child, my family celebrated our French Canadian heritage through food, and traditions, especially during the holidays. As a mother, I wanted to expose my children to as many experiences as possible so we attended festivals, concerts, live theatre and dance events frequently. I also encouraged my children to experiment with their creative side by creating an arts room for them in our home, by enrolling them in arts camps and by supporting their involvement in dance and musical theatre. I consider myself a patron of the arts – supporting local artists, events and food establishments. My favorite local artist is Veronika Funk, and one of her paintings serves as my daily Mantra – it is a painting of Harriet Tubman that states: “Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

Q.  Residents have indicated through community survey’s that they would like to see more cultural events (i.e:  dinner theatre, festivals, performing/ literary/visual arts events) and programs.  To address this need, the City of Airdrie has embarked on a Municipal Cultural Planning process.  How do you see arts, culture, and heritage playing a role in the enhancement of our city’s future development (example: the downtown area?)

A. I want to live in a diverse and vibrant community, my vision of this kind of community includes a strong emphasis on arts and culture. I personally believe that arts, culture and heritage should play an important role in the enhancement of our downtown. The importance of arts and culture in our downtown is reflected in 5 City Council approved planning documents. I believe that the community must create a vision for Airdrie – what do we want our City to become in 5, 10 and 15 years. This will guide our strategic plan and budget moving forward. I do believe it is important to create a City that meets a diversity of needs, interests, ages and stages.

Q. In 2016, Tourism Calgary reported that it welcomed over 7 million unique visitors to the region and benefited economically from over $1.6 billion in spending by tourists.  Currently Airdrie does not have a dedicated tourism body, centre or strategy to capitalize on destination marketing.  How would you as a candidate see the City of Airdrie handling the development of a tourism strategy and cultural tourism assets in the city to reap the social and economic benefits for Airdrie residents, businesses, artists and cultural/arts non-profits?

A. I believe that the City can have a role in developing a tourism strategy; I believe this is something that Airdrie Economic Development has been trying to work on for several years. Together with the community and stakeholders – including hotels, restaurants, existing events and attractions – the City can brainstorm ways to better support tourism initiatives. We can help to build, promote and support new tourism attractions and we can support the tourism events that we currently have– The Airdrie Festival of Lights, the Pro Rodeo, Nose Creek Valley Museum, and Bert Church Theatre. I would love to see more events and festivals in Airdrie, I would love to see a community vision that helps to put Airdrie on the map – that helps to make Airdrie a destination.

Q.  It has been shown that Arts and Culture have a large impact on the three main drivers of ‘Place-making’.   These indicators (aesthetic, inclusiveness, social offerings) contribute to resident ‘pride of place’, quality of life, and enhance the local economy.  What is council’s role in attracting and retaining unique, creative industries/ artists to diversify and stabilize our local economy while providing a boost to Place-making efforts.

A.  I do believe the City has a role in attracting and retaining unique, creative industries to diversify and stabilize our economy. I believe Economic Development has a role to play in attracting businesses to Airdrie. I believe by creating a vision for our community, by “Dreaming it, Planning it and Doing it” we will be a more attractive community for all sectors – including artists and creative industries. I do believe that if we create multipurpose facilities and spaces that can serve a variety of purposes that our community will be more welcoming to a wide range of people and businesses.

Q.  Public Art enhances a city’s aesthetic and sense of place.   These culturally iconic pieces often create community dialog around art and reflect a community identity and values.  What are your thoughts on civic involvement in public art? Do you see growing the civic art collection as an important role for the city to play?

A.   Public art is a contentious issue at the moment, given what has been happening in Calgary. I think it is difficult for many people to understand the benefit of funding such things as “a big blue ring” in a City, especially in a less than ideal economic environment. In order to build an understanding of the value of public art, we need to inform and engage our community. I believe public art has a role in creating a visually appealing and vibrant community. The hands on the outside of Bert Church Theatre are a great example of how public art can make a building more visually appealing and interesting.    I do believe the only way to grow a civic art collection is to have the city play a role. At the risk of repeating myself, the community needs to create a vision, develop a strategic plan, and an associated budget. There is only so much money in the City budget – it’s up to Council to work with the community to determine what the community priorities are.

Q.   Airdrie has a rich heritage steeped in a pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit and, like many towns, was an important stop along the CP Rail.  Unfortunately, the City has lost much of its heritage buildings to date to new development.  As such, it falls to the community to build its heritage for the future.  What do you see as the City’s role in developing living heritage, preserving current heritage and identifying/preserving future heritage assets and institutions?

A.  I think the City and the community both have a role to play in defining, and documenting our living heritage.  Once we know what our living heritage is we can work together with community stakeholders to preserve, promote and share it. I do believe to preserve our current heritage, we need to start by working more closely with and supporting local organizations, such as Nose Creek Valley Museum and Iron Horse Park. We need to start by focusing on these current assets, ensuring they are well maintained and supported. Nose Creek Valley Museum and Iron Horse Park are both rich in historical and cultural significance to Airdrie. I know from speaking with the Board of Nose Creek Valley Museum that this city owned facility is in a sad state of disrepair. Its roof has been leaking for two years. We need to maintain our city assets that support the important work of the museum. I spoke with the Board of Iron Horse Park, and they would really like support from the city in very simple ways – help with acquiring a few trees every year and with watering these trees.  Without much in the way of heritage buildings, we need to preserve our heritage through celebrations and events; and commemorate them in gathering places (murals, plaques, etc.). Places like the Nose Creek Valley Museum and The Iron Horse Park give us that opportunity and need to be supported. We also need to remember to incorporate our agricultural roots while celebrating our modern lifestyles.  Bridging generations to keep the stories alive takes grassroots efforts and City support.  Identifying future heritage assets comes directly from consultation with the community and understanding what is of value in a historical perspective both now and in the future. For the City that means every new infrastructure project from a library to a bridge will be viewed 10, 20 even 30 years from now and we want future generations to appreciate what we created and why.

Q.  Airdrie sits on Treaty 7 lands and is home to an increasingly culturally diverse people.  With racial issues so prevalent in the media what do you feel is Council’s role in, and how would you advocate for, positive race relations and supporting new comers to the city?  

A.  I strongly believe that we need to ensure Airdrie is a welcoming community for everyone. I also believe that Council has a role to play in leading by example. Let’s celebrate our cultural diversity.  Culture in the Creek was a great event that celebrated a variety of cultures in our community. Community spaces and events help to expose people to one another and allow them to create relationships – it’s important that we support initiatives and facilities that allow people to interact and celebrate.  The Welcoming Airdrie group is an important asset to our community in welcoming newcomers, and I believe the City can support their work as well.  Our language and our actions must be inclusive.

Q.   Reports show that investments in arts facilities and infrastructure of $1 equals an average return of $1.9 directly and $2.6 when tourism benefits are considered.  (Source: Business for the Arts Report, McKinsey & Company 2008).  This is in addition to increased vitality, direct marketing opportunities and business attraction.  Given the above statistics and benefits:  How would you as a council member ensure that arts & culture facilities play a role in future development in Airdrie?

A.   I do believe it is important to build a community for every age and stage, and to ensure a diversity of facilities that allow every member of our community to participate fully and to have a high quality of life. There is a myriad of ways to incorporate arts and culture into facilities. If we truly believe in the importance of arts and culture, then we need to put our money where our mouth is and support its development.