Courtenay, Nanaimo, and Port Alberni Cultural Mapping Project + Symposium

Phase 1 of a cultural/video mapping project conducted on Vancouver Island earlier this year has been completed, preliminary results have been shared, and a symposium on the subject of cultural mapping is being held in July in Courtenay. 

Where is Here: Small Cities, Deep Mapping and Sustainable Futures is a mapping project and symposium that seizes on the interest shown in cultural mapping practices by small cities and brings to bear multiple knowledge-domains to move our collective understanding of this practice forward.

The first phase of the mapping project, conducted by Vancouver Island University researchers from February to April 2016, invited residents of Courtenay, Nanaimo, and Port Alberni to tell a story about the places in which they feel most connected to the downtown core of their community. These maps and some information about the process are available for viewing at

Cultural Mapping Symposium

What role can cultural mapping and cultural development play in the sustainability of small cities? This question lies at the heart of ‘Where is Here’, a major symposium taking place at the Native Sons Hall and Comox Valley Art Gallery (CVAG) in downtown Courtenay on July 20 to 22. 

Registration for the symposium is now open at An early-bird rate is in effect until June 30.

The symposium will draw more than 25 presenters from international to local. Activities will include keynote speakers, panel discussions, an art program organized by CVAG, and a post-symposium hike to the summit of Mount Washington.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Nancy Duxbury, a cultural mapping specialist based in Coimbra, Portugal;
  • William Garrett-Petts, a small cities cultural development specialist working out of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops; and
  • Stuart Poyntz, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University who specialized in community media.

“The speakers will illuminate various roles for cultural mapping in relation to small city development,” says symposium organizer Sharon Karsten. “They will also highlight new possibilities for mapping in a rapidly-evolving technological landscape.”

In addition to the keynote speeches, a series of panel discussions will explore cultural mapping from a number of angles. “The goal is to unpack the practice of cultural mapping as it is intertwined with social justice, creative practice, municipal planning and acknowledgement of sacred space,” says Karsten. Audience interaction will be welcomed and encouraged. 

A post-symposium event called Talk, Walk and Make, organized by the North Island College Faculty of Fine Arts and Design, will take place Saturday, July 23. This event includes a group hike to the summit of Mount Washington, an artist talk by Comox Valley artist Clive Powsey and a reception for Walking as Mapping, an exhibition produced by North Island College Fine Art students and faculty. 

There are varied registration fees for the symposium, but all of the art events are free and open to the public. 

The symposium is organized by a team of researchers from Vancouver Island University in partnership with the Comox Valley Art Gallery, Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association, North Island College School of Fine Art and Design, and the City of Courtenay.

For more information, call Sharon Karsten at  250 650 3794 or email

©2019 BC Alliance for Arts + Culture. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy