Candidate: Derek Friesen
What opportunities do you believe Windsor-Essex has to grow our art, culture and heritage sector?
I believe the biggest opportunity that Windsor-Essex has to grow our art, culture, and heritage sector is in regards to tourism. The culinary arts will certainly play a key role in this strategy. Millennials are especially motivated to go places based on the food and drink experiences they can take in. This is something that Leamington has begun to recognize, but we we need to ensure that fresh ideas continue to be discussed at the Council table. I will bring these forward so that we will continue to see cultural growth.
How do you propose to attract or retain artists and cultural workers in your community?
In terms of attracting artists the Leamington Arts Centre and The Bank Theatre are already doing that. The Leamington Arts Centre has gained a great reputation over the last number of years and are getting more and more artists from outside Windsor-Essex exhibiting here as a result. Likewise, The Bank Theatre has also been able to attract talented musicians and performers from outside our region. These two organizations are doing a great job already, they just need to feel support from the Municipality. In terms of workers, I think this is where the Municipality can play a greater role. Currently, there is a Department of Recreation and Culture, but I think they need to be distinct. I would like to see Leamington have a Department of Arts and Culture and have the employees of the Leamington Arts Centre become Municipal employees by joining that department. The Leamington Arts Centre is a Municipal building, which means that should be cleaned by the same crew that cleans the town hall, and the staff who operate it should be part of our Municipal staff.
What role do you see for arts and culture in the promotion of the region both as a destination for tourists and as a place of permanent residence for youth, families, and retirees?
I think arts and culture is where we’re going to see the next great explosion of tourism in our region. We have a wine route and over the next few years I would like to see us, as a region, develop an arts route as well. This will be something that can engage both tourists and residents.
In what other ways could you use your position as an elected official to help support the arts, culture and heritage sector outside of using municipal funding?
Currently I sit on the Board of Directors of the Leamington Arts Centre. If elected, I hope to be appointed as the Council Representative to that board. I will also be a vocal proponent of the arts and culture being part of an economic development strategy. Entrepreneurs and innovators are creative people who are drawn to areas that have a thriving arts and culture community. These places are seen as being open to unconventional ideas and that’s the kind of atmosphere we need to create.
What is your perspective on the best ways to collaborate with other levels of government to ensure sustainability and growth for the cultural sector of our community?
I look forward to using my passion for the arts to collaborate with upper levels of government, but I think we need to strengthen and solidify support at the Municipal level first. In Leamington there has been a lot of talk over the last few years about increased support for arts and culture, but it has never received the level of support that athletics does. Once we as a Municipality show that we take arts and culture seriously, then I think the upper levels of government will give it a serious look as well.
How do you personally engage with arts, culture and heritage in Windsor-Essex?
As mentioned above, over the last 4 years I have been on the Board of Directors of the Leamington Arts Centre, where I sit as chair of the Media Arts Program. Drawing has always been one of my favourite activities and I have exhibited some of my work at the Leamington Arts Centre in the past. I’m also on the fundraising committee for The Bank Theatre, as we raise money to cover the cost of renovating the building.