An open letter to The Honourable Mélanie Joly, our new Minister of Heritage

We congratulate you on your appointment and are hopeful that we are at the threshold of a new era of recognition and support for arts and culture in Canada. As artists and writers, we, Ann Jaeger and Victoria Ward, invite you to consider these following ideas as you begin your new role as Minister of Heritage. We believe that the arts, especially cultural practices in rural and smaller communities, have been neglected these last, long nine years. In that time we both have written many, many blogs, read many, many articles and engaged in our communities regarding the arts extensively. The following are ten ideas that we believe need attention from the Federal government.

FUNDING

  • Federal funding for the arts should broadly support artists and arts organizations rather than their product. The arts are an interconnected ecology and quality art evolves from diversity. Grant applications are excessively complex and reward those who follow standardized forms of education, exposure, career development, etc., but not necessarily innovation. Grants, by their short term nature, leave artists and arts organizations in a constant state of precarity. Conversely corporate sponsorships and partnerships run the risk of diluting and influencing the integrity of the work.
  • We need to bring back the national exhibition transportation program. Take the burden of exhibiting across this enormous country off the galleries, the arts councils and artists and take up the responsibility for making art exhibitions national.
  • Digital Content Investment or DCI charge on our ISP bills. We see the new digital world as a place where devices have become venues and sharing has become audience building. But, creative people who provide the imagery and writing (not unlike what we both do here) are never compensated properly given how much our work is shared and makes impact. What if there were a fund that came directly from people who used the internet to look at all the stuff that artists made? The fund would be administered through an existing body but distributed among services like CARFAC or other organizations that create and sustain the environment for making art as well as helping fund opportunities to pay creative people to make content.
  • We need innovative funding models and new funding ideas. As a community we should be at the forefront in this thinking so why not set up a national roundtable on the issue of funding the arts specifically? We need to consider alternative ideas like basic income. Why isn’t the meritocracy of the art world discussing basic income? Cover an artist’s studio, utilities and other essential costs and wham – you’ve got a way more productive artist.

EDUCATION

  • While the cost of a post secondary education has become prohibitive in all sectors, the cost of an arts education is punitive in a field where even successful practitioners live well below the poverty line. Art schools and institutions that emphasize entrepreneurship in the arts devalue an individual artist’s process and present the arts to the public through the limited lens of business and economics.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

  • Arts and culture should be viewed as a cornerstone, a unique element of the economy that cannot be quantified, but which generates not only economic value but immense social value through education, public discourse and engagement, community building, neighbourhood enrichment, enhancement of mental health and creative thinking, representing and encouraging diversity, amplifying our global presence and status.
  • We need an ongoing educational relationship with the public of all demographics about the value of diverse arts practices. Street art spectacles and festivals can help to engage the public, but are only a fraction of cultural practice. Use artists as a resource (with pay of course) in all aspects of governance! They are by nature problem-solving, outside the box thinkers.
  • Let’s lay off on the festivals and one off art parties for a bit shall we? These are often largely focused in big cities, at the expense of smaller places. Long term sustainability of the arts should be the focus of the federal government. An environment that allows art making to thrive is a lot more complicated and a lot less sexy than a big, celebrity driven art event but… the goal isn’t next year, the goal is the next ten, twenty years. We should shift money to resources, individual artists, artist groups and organizations that are in the business of actually making art, and actually helping art being made, not making money from art related ideas.

END THE DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF CERTAIN CULTURAL COMMUNITIES

  • Artists bring value to rural communities, not just large urban centres, and should be encouraged. However, a rural art practice can have special challenges and costs – lack of access to education and professional development, higher material costs, additional transportation expenses or lack of access to affordable internet. It is important to work with provincial and municipal levels of government to level the playing field for rural artists.
  • Engage older, veteran artists. Young people are great and all but when it comes to art you may be surprised that the biggest risk takers, biggest innovators and most dedicated people are well into their 50s and beyond. This is a group badly maligned by the media and yet, they are the generation who created the arts councils, CARFAC, many of the galleries we have now and loads of other things that you are too young to remember. These people are a fantastic resource, please don’t shuffle them off with a Governor General award – celebrate their contribution and ask them what they think.

Yours truly in anticipation,
Ann Jaeger
Victoria Ward

 

%d bloggers like this: