Working together to support the arts

They have opposite work styles but they still get the job done.

Sean Farrell, executive director of the Prince George & District Community Arts Council (CAC) and Lisa Redpath, program manager for the last nine years, have been working together since Farrell was hired more than two years ago.

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Farrell said it's remarkable to watch Redpath work.

"There is no one else in Prince George that could do Studio Fair as well as Lisa," Farrell said about the biggest event the CAC hosts that sees artisans from across the country sell their wares at the Prince George Civic Centre in early November over the span of Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

"To see her work through 40 hours of unendurable stress as 11,000 people come through the doors and then she shows up first thing Monday morning ready for work and she's calm and cool," Farrell said.

At any given time throughout the year Redpath is working on a dozen different programs, Farrell said.

"It can be the feature gallery, our social media, curatorial work in the artisan gift shop and she's an amazing resource for the creative sector here," Farrell said. "And that makes my life wonderful because that allows me to do my job to develop a business strategy and growing this organization into its natural role of the pillar of the local arts and cultural community. So the fact that I can just step away and know that our programs and events are so perfectly served by Lisa allows me to focus on what I think I am here to do, which is planning for the future and developing strategy."

Farrell said that is what's behind the ideal team.

"In essence how do two people, quite frankly, end up doing the jobs of six or seven people, how would you put that in a bottle and replicate it," Farrell asked. "Here at the Community Arts Council we really do operate as a team and I mean that more in the sense that we've got rules, we've got roles, we know what are jobs are but at any given time we're absolutely willing to sub in for each other."

When the search was on for an executive director a few years back the ideal candidate was one with strong financial skills and a good base for business strategy, Redpath said.

"When I met Sean I had this great feeling that this was somebody that we really needed as a part of our team," Redpath said. "With him coming on board in the last two and a half years it certainly has developed into this very dynamic, very energetic working relationship where in my view we complement each other."

Redpath said they have different working styles where a big part of her job is connecting with people while Farrell is very analytical with a creative thinking aspect to his personality.

"I think the gel that keeps us together is we both have a profound love of community," Farrell said. "Lisa is a lifelong member of this community and I'm a relatively new member but for a number of different reasons community to me also means family and it means belonging to something greater than yourself. We are in the place that is celebrating 50 years of building community through the arts here at the Community Arts Council and that's the love that brings us to work filled with gratitude every day."

Eventually the CAC will be moving from the Studio 2880 complex on 15th Ave., to its new facility at 1310 Third Ave., but there's no firm date set yet.

"With the upcoming development of our new facility, I feel 100 per cent confident and optimistic about what the future looks like for this organization and for the working relationship Sean and I have," Redpath said. "There's going to be challenges obviously that not only come with a new facility but a whole new set of programs and events that we'll be introducing to the city and it really helps that we're on the same page."

Farrell said moving to the new facility will bring home the fact that the definition of art and culture is expanding, especially as the CAC partners with the Prince George Farmers' Market that hosts a lot of food growers in the building currently.

"This is a new vision for the arts council," Farrell said.

It's interesting to note there's been a surge in membership to the Community Arts Council, an indicator that more people in the community are aware of the organization and its function in the region.

There are eight people on staff, several people on contract to run certain programs and events and a full roster of volunteers who support the non-profit organization.

The Community Arts Council is the umbrella organization for artisans and artistic groups in Prince George and surrounding area.

The CAC mission statement is to foster the arts by providing events, programs and services to residents and artists in the community.

"We serve individual artists and arts and cultural organizations, while serving the general public as well," Farrell said. "One of the things we take the most pride in is we're the facilitators that bring arts to the people and bring people to the arts."

Farrell lists the arts to include visual arts, guild arts and performing arts.

"Then we deliver our own programs and services as well," Farrell said. "We're not just a hub organization."

The Community Arts Council offers business development courses, art camps, scholarships and bursaries, an arts apprenticeship at Theatre Northwest, art and wellness programs, they support the Northern Indigenous Artist Collective, host the feature gallery, which features a regional artist's work, the gift shop which showcases many regional artists' work and Artnership that features regional artists at the airport and City Hall. The CAC also presents the Arts Notes newsletter to let the public know what's happening every month.

Recently the arts council announced they will be conducting a city-wide survey to see how people engage with the arts to assist the City of Prince George to facilitate their new arts and culture plan in 2019.

"In order to help the city develop their cultural plan, we're doing a city-wide cultural inventory," Farrell said.

The CAC will also take steps to ensure the arts and culture plan serves the city well into the future, he added.

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