The Arts Council of Surrey is celebrating its 51st anniversary this year. From a very small group, the membership of the arts council has definitely grown since 1967, and now has established a permanent home in Newton Cultural Centre. It is a hub of information, but often overlooked or ignored by our community at large. How many of you even know Surrey has an arts council? Rhetorical question there. Pass along this information to someone you think hasn’t heard the word yet.
In 1964, a loosely formed group called the Surrey Art Society (SAS) lobbied the city to create Surrey Centennial Arts Centre in Bear Creek Park. This project was completed in 1967, and the SAS incorporated a new name, Arts Council of Surrey and District. Surrey wasn’t a city yet, just a municipal district.
In 1980, the ACS recognized “craft” as an art form and held its first Christmas market. This was also the year that our arts council began an annual tradition of recognizing an individual with the Outstanding Service to the Arts award. All too often, individual contributions to the arts in Surrey are not recognized at all. Even fame doesn’t guarantee any formal and public recognition.
Over the years, I think this individual award is vital to our arts community. Sometimes, you wouldn’t even think to nominate a “behind the scenes” individual for selection. The 2018 Outstanding Service to the Arts Award was presented to Dave Relf at the arts council’s annual general meeting (AGM) in March.
I bet most of you have never heard of Dave Relf, but many local dancers have received the benefit of his work over the past two decades. Relf, who recently retired, was the longtime owner of Superior Trophies, previously located in Whalley and, under new ownership, now doing business on the Surrey-Langley border. For over 23 years, he filled even the bizarre requests from the Surrey Festival of Dance, which this week launched for another year at Surrey Arts Centre. Patty Halliday, who presented Relf’s nomination from the Surrey Festival of Dance, says he always went “above and beyond, never flustered, even when we came in last-minute frazzled because a trophy just broke.” It was important to Relf to make sure the dancers received their trophies onstage, fully repaired. He was a true artist, and friend.
In 1987, the arts council initiated the drive to add a theatre box office and numbered seats at the arts centre, located at Bear Creek Park. Ah yes, the business side of the arts. It was also this year that another award was established by the arts council, the Business and the Arts Award. Many businesses have contributed financial assistance or services in-kind to our arts community. Large grants or chunks of change are always appreciated, but sometimes just a long-standing service to an arts group deserves recognition as well.
The 2018 Business and the Arts Award was presented to Crown Dental Studio on 102nd Avenue, off King George Boulevard. Sure, a great smile with shiny teeth is an asset to a performer, but this award was won by being a good neighbour.
Over 15 years ago, the Surrey Festival of Dance moved their offices next door to Crown Dental. All those trophies have to be sorted and stored somewhere, and the festival had grown very large. This office space was a great boost to the day-to-day operations of SFD.
But remember, SFD is run entirely by volunteers. That means there may not always be someone in the office. Dental lab owner/operator John Yee, his family and staff have gone beyond being just a good business neighbour. They have not only housed and collected the returning trophies when no one was in the SFD office, but have helped with changing lights, fixing doors, plumbing, heating and by lugging loads of very heavy boxes up and downstairs. Seems like a “good neighbour” thing, and SFD is most appreciative; it does make a difference.
One last big accomplishment for the arts council is giving out grants to member groups. The British Columbia Arts Council was a source of income for all the arts councils in the province. Over the years, funding was mostly cut off to the arts. So, since 2010, your arts council continued to award grants to member groups of the ACS, all on its own initiative. In order to be eligible for this grant, groups must be members of the arts council and attend most of the monthly meetings.
Of course, 2010 was also the official opening of Newton Cultural Centre and home to the ACS. Giving out grants and awards is just one way the arts council promotes, develops and sponsors arts-related activities in Surrey.
These grants and awards can only be given out if the arts council knows about you, your business, or group. Make contact. Nominations for the awards are accepted at any time. There are still individuals and businesses that should be recognized. Be a good neighbour, and put in your nomination now.