We acknowledge that we live and work on unceded Indigenous territories and we thank the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for their hospitality.

Review

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway? Community Engagement in Small Cities

By W.F. Garrett-Petts, James Hoffman, and Ginny Ratsoy, Editors

August 20, 2015

Review By Eric Brown

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway? addresses important questions about the contribution of arts and culture in small and medium sized cities and the ethos and ethics of supporting cultural development in these environments. Small and medium sized cities tend to be overlooked in urban studies literature and this book brings much need attention to the role of arts and culture in these under-examined settings.

Through an exploration of broader urban studies theory and the specific documentation of practice, Whose Culture Is It, Anyway? makes a compelling case for the importance of arts and culture in community development initiatives in small cities such as Kamloops. Arts and culture serve to engage local residents while contributing to quality of life. In diverse ways, the eighteen authors contextualize arts and cultural development in small BC towns within broader societal and intellectual trends. The case studies included here show how residents, researchers, and community development practitioners have used arts and culture to reflect on what makes their communities unique and how arts and culture can be leveraged to achieve broader community development goals.

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway? emphasises the importance of developing cultural programming that reflects the local community. By embedding programming in the community, we can avoid transposing mainstream culture onto that which is local. Artistic endeavours should challenge the status quo, but they should be firmly rooted in the local reality of the place. Consequently, this book places art and artists at the centre of the community development process. The role of artists, it is argued, is to reflect society back on itself and imbue the physical and social landscape with meaning. In small communities, which may lack the social infrastructure to resist the forces of surrounding urban cores, it is especially important to focus on local history and geography in artistic and cultural endeavours to push back against the homogeneity emanating from larger urban centres. The local character of culture deepens sense of place and in turn generates community pride and encourages local economic development. Thoroughly researched and eclectic in its intellectual approach, and featuring a contribution from the poet bill bissett, this book reveals the important role that arts and culture can play in sustainable community development in small towns on the rural-urban fringe.

Whose Culture Is It, Anyway? Community Engagement in Small Cities
W.F. Garrett-PettsJames Hoffman, and Ginny Ratsoy, editors
Vancouver: New Star Books, 2014. 320 pp. $35.00  paper