Now what?

As we see the Jasper Cultural Centre attempting stages to reopen we thought it might be timely to report on what Habitat is working on and towards.

Most recently the big room has hosted two theatre camps for youth1 and one ongoing youth arts program through Madame Vanessa Martin now in its 5th year. Vanessa’s student exhibition this year runs Sept 14-16 from 3-5pmth. There will not be the usual gallery gathering… crowds will adhere to Covid regulations.

The big room used to accommodate up to 30+ people; with Covid regulations it now hosts 10 including the instructor. Music and theatre nights will be a challenge. As such, we have opened the room to educators, community groups, schools and others who need an isolated, private space2.

The small classrooms that held up to 15 students now accommodate 4-5 including the instructor. The clay room that allowed 7-10 artists to work together is now restricted to 3 including the instructor. The clay room has a plethora of surfaces and tools and wet materials that make for a whole new world of regulations3. It has plans of reopening in September.

We are facing the question – to what degree can we facilitate the social connections Jasper is craving now?

From a recent study on Alberta Culture in Wave 1, results by StoneOlafson4, we quote:

Albertans are challenged to substitute experiences and fatigue is setting in. Social connections are one element that Albertans are missing most and yet, they can be replicated somewhat successfully through digital means. However, there is a limit to how effective that is long term; most people are showing signs of fatigue and substitutions are not likely to last in their current form. Furthermore, whatever social elements can be replicated, there is no substitution for the experiential elements of most activities. Albertans are least engaged in virtual live experiences (such as exhibits or tours) because they just don’t satisfy the same motivations.

So, where does Habitat go with drastically reduced vision and a huge transformation of resources?

“Comfort levels are rebounding but comfort isn’t action oriented. To get people engaged again we need to look at risk tolerance as that will lead to movement.” StoneOlafson. The New Experience Economy.

Admin at Habitat took the opportunity to listen to last week’s conversation on the need for someone to take on a ‘communications’ position for Jasper. A short synopsis was sent of what was thought to be heard and clarification came back on the personnel gap. It is true. Jasper needs a ‘synthesizer’ – someone to combine a number of things into a coherent whole. A communicator.

Key to communication is not simply putting information out. Responses to inquiries are necessary, and at the Habitat we try – with our volunteer energies – to do that. More importantly though, key to any communication is not just provision of information but listening to what others are doing. Whether you are selling ice cream or shoes or community service– no one wins with duplication of services that could have been avoided by clear and effective communication.

This community has always ‘over booked’ – from dates on the calendar overflowing with conflicting programs to duplication of services and programs. One page on Facebook – called community calendar that began in 2009 – is used daily by most organizations in town, BUT is missed by many viewers as social media is ‘short attention span theatre’. Things get posted and scroll away. Algorithms feed people only what they are interested in. Investing in someone to run a social media program is like investing in someone to run about town and put up posters on top of other posters– just before a wind-storm. (we know this from first-hand experience!)

A little history: In 2011 an organization called the Creative Campus suggested a database be assembled of all Jasper’s community spaces detailing what you could do in those spaces and who to contact to use those spaces. In 2014 council was presented with a booklet created in replica of one from the Edmonton Library. It was a multipage publication that showed all the events lined up by all the organizations downtown by age group.
Seniors could tell at a glance (colour codes) what to do on a Wednesday.
Parents could see at a glance that Saturdays at the Telus Centre was the place to be.
It was designed as a 3 month / 4 times a year publication. A cross reference publication for all age groups and disciplines to see what’s going on throughout town – to avoid duplication of services.

What is the point: It’s very possible that at 11 and 14 years old (2011 and 2014) Jasper may not have seen the need for those two examples of tangible community resource directories. In 2020 we are now seeing the need for tangible community E-resources to lead the way to better community connections.

September is the busiest month of the year for the cultural community. It has been since 2010 when Culture Days began. Last weeks council discussion mentioned that claiming a day in September for Jasper Day would be good – because nothing happens in September.

Which makes us wonder…exactly how much we miss by not ‘hearing’ what is going on around town.
Are 10,000 people engaged in the arts in the past 10 years nothing?
We have seen visitors and residents engaged in Artists in the Pines, Bowls with Soul, Mayors Awards for the Arts, Scarecrow Festivals, Music Theatre and Film Nights, Fashion shows, Puppet Shows…presented by the ACFA, The Library, JAG, Arts Jasper and Habitat – at locations throughout town like the Sawridge, Alpine Summit, the Legion, Pine Bungalows, every restaurant in town, MPL Lodges, the Museum, the Chaba, the Churches and the Activity Centre. Recognized by CBC radio and TV, the Globe and Mail…the Govt of Alberta, Theatre Alberta, Music Canada…visited by Premiers, MLA’s, Mayors and Ministers…and on and on.

Proof that communicating to our public will take much more than social media and posters.

The Habitat hosts a media room full of cameras and edit suites and equipment to – well – communicate.

If we take the two issues above; Habitats need to transform and Jaspers need for better communications we can’t help but see a reciprocity that would benefit everyone. It is a municipal building, the space and the personnel are municipal resources…and it already has the tools in place to communicate in a myriad of ways to the community.

We offer this correspondence to our patrons, our community, our neighbours and our town with hopes that we find creative ways to move forward together in this crazy year.

We welcome your input on what you have read here, your questions and suggestions.

2. A copy of the letter we have sent out: Dear Jasper NonProfits, Arts & Cultural Orgs, Teachers and Instructors: As the school year approaches, and the need to see children/organizations return to an environment where they can feel safe while socializing, the Habitat for the Arts wants you to know that there is a 22x22 square foot room completely void of surfaces besides door handles and window sills that is open to be used as an additional space for teaching. The large room at Habitat has been regularly used over the years by teachers have wanted to explore curriculum through art. The capacity in the past was 30+ persons in the room, however, with new regulations we are limited in what Habitat can offer there now. We are sure your spaces are feeling these constrictions as well. What we can offer is a safe large clean room for ANYONE to spread out as needed. The building actually offers a private entrance to the room, allowing access to the space without entering the rest of the building. Again, minimizing exposure for you and the rest of the building. You are, as always, most welcome to use this space as needed. Board meetings, brainstorming sessions, AGM’s…there are tables and chairs. Even a projector and screen or good old TV cart hooked to the web. At this time of transformation on how best to use municipal spaces it is – we believe – in the community’s best interests to use all spaces wisely and to their potential. Booking is required for us to ensure that it is there for you. There are many discussions evolving as we enter this ‘new normal’. We welcome any questions you may have.
3. A PARTIAL COPY OF THE NEW CLAYROOM RULES, please ask us for the FULL COPY We have a lot of new rules and modifications. Please don’t think you have to memorize all of them. We have placed many signs around the studio to indicate the rules and what modifications have been implemented in that specific area. We ask that you please pay attention to these signs while in the studio. FRONT DOOR A hand sanitizer is available at the front door. WASHROOMS We are now using ONE washroom until further notice. It is as always was – not for cleaning clay tools or hands. If you feel sick, do not come into the Habitat. Wear a mask at all times in the Habitat, your discretion once in the clay room as your co-creators feel necessary. Masks must be worn over the mouth and over the nose. Do NOT put food in the trash, please use the trash can outside. Eating should be a private affair away from others. We know these new rules and modifications are not ideal. We are looking forward to the day that we can eliminate this list of rules and return to a natural and shared atmosphere.

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