Westside Culture Days started out as a big dream between an artist, a business, and a museum. When Melissa Brown from Westbank Blenz talked to her property manager Bentall-Kennedy about what we were planning, they became an instant champion. Since then, this venture has grown to encompass the entire Westside with an excess of 58 artists and 26 businesses and as word continues to get around, it is still growing.
Darren Robinson, Marketing Manager, Village Green Centre was spokesperson for Scott Adam, who is the General Manager of three Okanagan properties including Westbank Shopping Centre, but away on holidays. Darren says of their philosophy “we are here to make a living in this community that we love and believe in and it makes sense to work together on many levels. It is important to offer unique and authentic delivery of product and experience in the community in which we live and do business.”
It is because of participation and support by property managers such as Bentall-Kennedy that encourage businesses and cultural groups to participate, even those outside of Westbank Shopping Centre. When you have a champion, anything is possible.
Melissa told me she “was very excited by how quick our landlord, Bentall-Kennedy, hopped on board with the event. The westside is in such need of an event like this and it is great to have their partnership.”
Bentall-Kennedy has provided the Westbank Shopping Centre empty spaces for use at no cost to Westside Culture Days participants. Not only that but they have provided $1500 for advertising for their mall. That is a walk the talk philosophy of “we are here to make a living in this community that we love and believe in, and it makes sense to work together”. They win when their tenant wins and when their community wins.
This kind of property manager has the business attitude of not what can I get from this “now” but what can we do that will encourage success for current tenants and continue investment in the future? To me, not only does this show confidence in the business community but confidence in the cultural community. Westside Culture Days could have been charged for the space for these three days, but what would that message have been?
I did speak with a leasing manager of a different mall on the westside but that person was about the rules and the requirements of how potential tenants must fit their dynamic. There are a lot of empty spaces in that mall. Just saying.
From this experience, it has really confirmed for me that in order for the businesses to be attracted to a mall, and to grow and survive and succeed, that property manager needs to be very aware of the changing trends of that community. I think those who are on the edge of tomorrow have snapped to attention with the recognition and understanding of the importance of a cultural presence.
When the tourists come, they look at what is presented in the mall and choose to shop accordingly. What do you think they are thinking when they see the empty units and For Lease signs? I think they see failure. Heck, I live here and I see failure.
It will be smart business to have an anchor community group or a cultural presence that encourages economic growth and regeneration through culture (google Creative Cities Network). The community becomes invested in that mall – a result of the mall investing in the community. We all win.
Through participation of businesses and cultural individuals and groups, there are two main ideas at work: fostering civic involvement through diversity of experience, and building community identity and pride. This is the type of cultural branding and identity I want to have where I live.
Westside Culture Days will take place September 26, 27, 28 at various locations on the westside, more information can be found at http://www.WestsideCultureDays.com
Julia Trops is a Westside artist and author of the book Art & Money. Email info@WestsideCultureDays.com