Eric Wood Zhelka
Party or Slate (if applicable)
Do you know how much your local government invests in the arts? Would you commit to advocating for an increase in that cultural investment for arts, culture, and heritage in your community, within the capacity of your elected body?
Yes, and with respect to arts and culture, I'd like to see investments increased commensurate with donations and community efforts.
If elected, will you take an active role on behalf of your local government in championing the growth of arts, culture and heritage in your community? Why?
Absolutely, as this is one way to keep our community healthy, vibrant, and alive. Arts and culture, in my opinion, is part of what holds our society together, whether through creative protest or joyful celebration. I will look for ways to support the Arts here as I have elsewhere.
Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages and are three times more likely to get a degree. Will you commit to making the arts a critical component of every child’s education? If so, how?
Yes, by supporting necessary funding for schools to help them keep their fine arts & music programs. Supporting public art near schools can assist with this.
How will your local government maintain or grow its investment in cultural programs in your community?
As Oak Bay is a small municipality with no business taxes to rely upon, I continue to provide strong support to match donations and efforts of the wider community with financial input from Oak Bay. I also appreciate the efforts of the CRD Arts Development Service and their contribution to Oak Bay and the wider community.
Will you work to ensure access to affordable, sustainable cultural spaces for artists and arts organizations? If so, how?
While difficult to balance this request with the current infrastructure priorities, I will always look to at least add in public art space to any project we must take on. I continue to support Oak Bay’s Arts Laureate position. I'm sensitive to those who may not find arts and culture quite their cup of tea; reasonable time restrictions on sound and light are always needed e.g. painted pianos.
How do you propose to improve cultural tourism in your community?
By keeping Oak Bay special and beautiful. I absolutely support and applaud the efforts of staff of District of Oak Bay and our volunteer groups mounting our excellent yearly events.
How do you propose to attract or retain artists and cultural workers in your community?
The beauty and stability of Oak Bay has contributed to the number of artists and cultural workers moving, growing their families, and retiring here.
What do you feel is the single most important issue relating to arts, culture, and heritage in your community, and what action will you take to address it?
Heritage preservation is under direct threat, especially our smaller older homes, for example, being barged away. I'd like to see the Prospect Heritage Conservation Area expanded to other Oak Bay neighbourhoods.
How do you personally engage in the cultural life of the community? (e.g. involvement on committees, attending arts and culture events, etc.)
For a Professional Engineer, I have rather extensive experience in the arts!!
My first job was at Nelvana, an animation studio in Toronto. Working there got me through university and allowed me to rub shoulders with the likes of Lou Reed and Rush, and even garnered me some film credits (IMDB!)
I have been a member of several choirs over the years as a tenor. I play the drum... music is a big part of our family life. My daughter performs with Island Ukuleles (www.islandukulele.org) with my son following in her footsteps.
I have performed in plays with VideoCaberet and street performance/parades with Shadowland Theatre. I took part in a multi-year Island to Island Arts Exchange with Peter Minshall in Trinidad & Tobago where I learned the intricate art of Stilt Dancing - a skill I taught children and brought to the streets during Carnival and Caribana. I am a founding director of the Swizzlestick Theatre company. You may have seen me stilting at the Victoria Day parade or at Oak Bay's Tea Party parade - most recently this summer.
I claim to be an amateur ballroom dancer and have occasionally performed, although my wife insists I have "two left feet". I practice the defensive martial art of Aikido, and, until I became a Councillor, I assisted with the children's program at Victoria Aikikai.
When I travel, I make time to visit all the local galleries and museums, and I love to brag about the conservatory, our opera, and the RBCM when I'm in other places.
If you'd like to provide voters with additional information about your stance on arts, culture, and heritage issues in your community, please use the space below.
Oak Bay has recently added to the work of the CRD is is responsible for implementing the established funding model for the Arts in the region; I'm certainly interested in promoting our support as a participating municipality. The Arts don't thrive and grow without appropriate funding.. especially funding that supports long-term planning.