((ital precede)) “Conscience makes cowards of us all”
I am writing from Toronto. My family home is split like a caucus, my sister working in the arts, and my father a staunch, Harper-loving conservative. Raising the conversation on arts funding is always arduous: my father willing to support unaffordable, but long-lasting infrastructure, my sister thinking the best outcome is giving artists money to create. Me, in the middle, as a policy wonk who just sat in a room packed with Squamish volunteers asking for grants-in-aid, all with an outstanding résumé of achievements.
I will continue to be a staunch supporter of the simple fact that our first job is to fund infrastructure appropriately.
The pleasure of having fresh, clean water come to my front door, and being able to flush the toilet most of the time without issue is a wonder, and an expensive one. Transit and ease of movement is a critical part of an economy. I do not support cuts to transit. I support finding efficiencies, and improving services.
It is one of council’s most difficult tasks to determine the boundaries of municipal government’s responsibility. How much should be funded out of public purse? Austerity demands tough choices be made, yet the demand of the public to ensure our social, parks and sports infrastructure remains intact and operational is well understood. Each argument is impressive, each group claiming health, societal and economic benefits to their particular perception of community needs. Listening to 35 applicants, one realizes that the groups and individuals in the room get things done without a consultant — efficiently, for little money.
Until recently, council has have given very little attention to the needs of arts and culture: No policy and no consistent funding.
The Biennale project requires $345K, DOS funding only $145K. This would bring three internationally recognized artists to build sculptures, support educational programs in schools, and fund 20 artists in residence. The public has raised $200K through monetary and in-kind donations. I have difficulty believing that we still need to justify supporting investment in public art.
Every successful society has art. Recently, we had the Olympics. It is a sporting event, but it was through arts and culture that we showed the world who we are. Each dollar invested in the arts in Canada is proven to bring $12 in economic benefits. Arts can be leveraged as a part of revitalization, can contribute to regeneration of undervalued land and real estate, and my favourite statistic, those who are involved in art are more likely to vote. I hope this means they’re more critical when weighing how to cast their votes. Heritage, arts and culture can be a profound way to diversify an economy. Art creates controversy and conversations.
The arts continually take a back seat to sports. The two should be symbiotic. Both arts and sports desperately scramble for measurement and methodology to justify social benefits in order to garner support for funding. We intrinsically know that as a society, we need both to thrive.