Much has been written recently about the role of culture in the evolution, and prospects, of cities. The work of Richard Florida on creative cities (The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002) comes to mind. Many cities in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere have become aware of the key role that culture can play in local economic and social development. Most of this research and discussion focuses on large, metropolitan cities – places with sufficient population, social capital, and economic clout to attract and generate innovative cultural activities. The conventional wisdom is that culture is a product of large cities and their abundance of formal arts and culture facilities and organizations. This text offers another perspective by exploring culture in small cities – places where 30 per cent of Canadians live.
The text reflects several years of research conducted in Kamloops, bc, by W. Garrett-Petts and colleagues with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's innovative and highly successful cura (Community-University Research Alliance) program. The Kamloops cura initiative (The Cultural Future of Small Cities) examined how multiple community stakeholders with a shared interest in culture, and its expression, work to create and sustain local culture. The cura team, which included community residents, had to consider critically their conceptions of what constitutes culture, sense of place, authenticity, and creativity, and who has the right to confer value on culture.
The text is nicely structured, comprising three parts with articles written in a mix of styles. The more formal academic contributions are well researched and ground their discussion of the changes experienced by Kamloops in the broader literature on economic, cultural, and social change. Other contributions are more anecdotal in nature, often using illustrations, photo montages, art, and poetry to communicate the authors' perceptions of art and culture. This variety of styles reflects the diversity of participants in the Kamloops cura project, and the many means of expression that can be used in a community.
In part 1 ('Cultural Transformations and Possible Futures'), we are introduced to Kamloops – its geography, economic structure, social dynamics, political and institutional processes, and cultural communities. We see a small city that has been buffeted in the past twenty years by significant economic change and its attendant impacts on community viability and stability.
In part 2 ('Cultural Narratives and Representations'), contributors move us to reflect on what it means to experience a sense of place. Authors explore the lived experience of Kamloops residents by asking them to tell [End Page 334] their personal stories in narrative form, and then prepare maps of valued places; this is called story-mapping. It helps us understand individuals' perceptions of space as they have experienced it – important landmarks and features. The articles make effective use of photographs, sketches, and mixed media. Not only do we gain a sense of this city as place through these works, we also see how varied and creative the arts and culture community can be in a small city.
Part 3 ('Cultural Symbols and Identities') addresses the contributions of theatre to Kamloops's sense of itself. Kamloops, we learn, has a well-established tradition of sophisticated theatrical productions created locally. The community is clearly interested in learning more about its history, which includes outlaws, cowboys, settlers and indigenous cultures. This part also explores how cultural identity is perceived and expressed by the area's First Nations communities and, within that community, how younger generations experience sense of place – sadly, too often in negative terms.
We are led to the perhaps inevitable question: in a community with so much diversity and perceptions of place, how should Kamloops represent itself to the world? Small cities are neither big cities nor small towns; they are something else. The narrative reviews how and why various slogans, graphic symbols, and styles of architecture (heritage buildings and postmodern projects) have been used to position and explain Kamloops – to its residents, tourists, and investors.
This text encourages the reader to reflect on concepts and perceptions of culture, its many and varied...