EDITORIAL: Arts and culture, want to come outside and play?

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
August 4th, 2011

Walking around downtown Rossland with a friend from California this past weekend, I felt somewhat self conscious that at 6:30 PM on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the downtown core was vacant of all but a Pomeranian attempting to bite at the heels of a passing semi and an old black dog making the rounds from bin to bin (Note to Bear Aware, he passed right on by the new solar trashc collectors with nary a whiff). The culturally overflowing, progressive-minded, recreation Mecca I had bragged about appeared to be at least in temporary hibernation.

  Naturally this led to a discussion about Rossland’s interesting migration patterns. Unlike most tourist towns where summer is high season and weekends are busy, Rossland is of course busiest in the winter; in the summer folks migrate to the lake or to winter-sustaining employment. On the weekends we’re out on the trails, on mountainsides, in rivers, lakes and creeks of all sorts. Indeed, downtown Rossland’s most bustling time seems to be around 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon. Take a wander down Columbia next Thursday at about that time. You’ll see what I mean.  My guest and I then played some mental Sim City, speculating on what might liven up the downtown and fill in some of the low times.  Rossland’s got plenty of culture, but I was unable at that time to point to any examples to show my guest. Apart from some alpine shots on the walls of the Steamshovel, and the crows in front of the library, Rossland’s culture was taking five.  That’s when the light bulb went on: Rossland’s culture lives indoors. Its people and its visitors, in large part, do not.  This may explain why Rossland is largely populated with small houses: we’re basically just indoors to sleep.  We need our art and culture to come out and play with us too.  Certainly it seems like a great idea from the perspective of boosting local artists’ exposure (so to speak) as well as boost quality of life for locals and quality of vacation experience for tourists. But how do you do it?  Some initial ideas. From high level concept of “Give them a stage and the people will play,” we might consider a small open air (perhaps covered stage) amphitheater somewhere in town with a spectacular backdrop view. Affordability, of course, is the limiting factor in translating this idea into real life. It doesn’t have to be big: maybe just enough seating for 40-50 folks on some concrete bleachers and some surrounding grassy areas for more seating if needed. Surely some of our local sustainability experts can come up with something green, affordable, functional and attractive given some resources and parameters to play with.  It would have to be a short walk from downtown, be a naturally sloping grade and possess a great view. What’s the best view in town? That’s a great question to discuss as well. The last corner on the way into town from Trail, which offers the OK, Roberts, Granite, Red view is a pretty good one. There also could be the hillside directly behind Ferraro’s, which looks out across the valley. For that matter, if we really want to think boldly, what about on the roof of Pro Hardware or Ferraro’s or the BMO building? Now, that would be a great view, albeit a pricier one. Of course there is also the Emcon lot, centrally located, a great location for RSS’s drama class to utilize and a pretty decent view up to Red. In combination with the skate-park, Emcon would continue it’s emergence as part of Upper Rossland’s recreational, culture strip of town.  Now start thinking about summer, evening concert series, watching the sun set over Record and Roberts while listening to some great live music, perhaps taking in an outdoor follies show, some Iron Mountain Theatre fun—or, heck, an outdoor “Rossland Idol”! The opportunities are endless. There’s no shortage of local talent to fill a unique new venue and having a one of a kind place to play doesn’t hurt in attracting folks to come to town and play.  Over the last few years Rossland’s typically much quieter summer season has already seen significant growth even if just measured in the number of shops and restaurants that now remain open for the warmer months. However, when I mentioned this to my visitor, he gave me a quizzical look that said, ‘you mean it used to be quieter than this?’   Bringing the arts outside, where the people and visitors spend much of their time could be one small step to continue to fill in the quiet times and round out the slow spots in the local economy. The addition of an affordable, show-piece outdoor amphitheatre could be one small piece to that puzzle.  Would you support the development of an outdoor amphitheatre in town? If so, what would it look like and where would you put it?


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