Port Moody wants to put some weight behind its brand.
Tuesday, Mayor Meghan Lahti announced the terms of reference for a special task force that will bring together the city’s arts and business communities to “identify opportunities to strengthen the city’s branding as City of the Arts.”
Among the task force’s goals will be to “articulate a vision for growing the City of the Arts brand” and “to brainstorm ways to create synergies between Port Moody’s arts and business communities that will strengthen the city’s brand.”
Port Moody’s City of the Arts brand was coined more than 20 years ago by local arts advocates, Elizabeth Keurvost and the late Ann Kitching, who thought the slogan would help boost arts and tourism.
But a survey conducted in 2021 found almost a quarter of its 365 respondents wanted to see the slogan removed or changed from the city’s vision statement.
Catherine Berris, a community planner for Urban Systems, the company that designed the survey, said respondents didn’t seem to understand the slogan’s relationship to the city.
“It’s almost like the city wasn’t doing enough with the arts, so why should we be using that term?”
But Mike Arseneault, a retired brand marketing manager for Nike who last year formed the Ioco Players theatrical troupe, recently told council the slogan isn’t the problem.
“The definition of arts in Port Moody is too narrow and limiting,” he said, adding the city needs to leverage the diversity of its arts community that goes beyond painters and sculptors to include its brewers, chefs, writers, performers, street artists, filmmakers, chocolatiers and even baristas.
“Arts is everywhere,” Arseneault said.
Forging a stronger connection between the arts and tangible things people encounter in their everyday lives, like the beer they drink on Brewers Row and the dinner they enjoy at a local restaurant, would go a long way to making City of the Arts relevant to a broader audience, said Victoria Petriw, who helped start a line of Port Moody-branded casual clothing, Port Moody & Co.
Musicians and promoters Bill Sample and Darlene Cooper, who moved to Port Moody from Vancouver in 2018, said they never felt particularly included in the city’s slogan, especially since the old Gallery Bistro burned down in 2019, depriving musicians, poets, writers and artists of a lively little venue where they showcased their work.
To help inject some new energy into Port Moody’s performing arts scene, Sample and Cooper last year launched a series of concerts at the 159-seat Inlet Theatre that’s attracted artists like Gypsy jazzmeisters Van Django and Vancouver soul singer Dawn Pemberton, who performs on March 31.
Arseneault said a vibrant arts scene strengthens a community, making it a more attractive destination for arts-adjacent businesses like TV and film production, technology and design as well as media arts.
“City of the Arts is a very enviable position,” he said. “We need to protect it.”