Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arts Cuts Continued: The Other Side of the Coin

Reverberations from the Canadian government's sudden $50-mil arts slash are nothing, I know, compared to the hell Lehman Brothers is going through today, but there are a few issues that come up for me as a result:
  • As Bloomberg (via ArtsJournal) notes today, when these big boys tank, it can spell danger for the many arts nonprofits that depend upon their beneficence in the absence of adequate government funding. Though our banks in Canada are not as threatened by the US mortgage crisis, it's clear that recession-revisioned budgets at RBC (home of the Canada's most monied painting competition), Scotiabank (sponsor of Nuit Blanche), and BMO (sponsor of 1stArt!) could spell serious shrinkage, if not elimination, of these programs. This is an especially precarious set of circumstances when word-of-mouth tells me that even arts orgs as populist as the Toronto Public Library are being asked to make sure any new programs have corporate sponsors.
  • It's also interesting to consider the market tumble in light of the art world folks who say that the government should get out of the funding biz and leave it to the corporations that actually have art on their walls and money in their wallets. This was opinion voiced by Newfoundland art dealer James Baird when I talked to him yesterday about his prize-juror duty for the RBC Painting Competition (article to follow in tomorrow's National Post). It would seem that asking corporations to step up the funding and government to step back is only really a great idea in a boom economy.
  • In the past few days, more voices have come to the fore from artists and writers themselves that question the immediate jump to attack either (a) the Harper government or (b) funding cuts in general. One of these questioning moments came up from author Randy Boyagoda during a panel discussion on CBC's Q where he noted he'd like to see artists like himself really consider how they might explain to a neighbour why part of that neighbour's taxes should go to support his art. Another came up from (and was since partially rescinded by) critic Marissa Neave who was dismayed at what she considered to be the unilateral "attack Harper" approach offered at the Department of Culture organizing meeting (previously noted here). 
  • On Monday's Q, Canadian Arts Presenting Association acting ED Deb Beauregard also reinforced the need to make personal links for citizens between the newspapers, books, songs, TV shows and websites they enjoy every day and the fact that all that is part of the "culture industry.
Don't know where these different points of view might leave us all, but I'm glad they're being voiced, for the most part. I do think that the gap between an artist's perception of art and a non-artist's perception of art, as Boyagoda and Beauregard pointed out, is something that really needs to be addressed. And if Toronto-area folks want to give Harper their own 2 cents directly, you better get moving--the man's in Oakville at 5:30pm today at 1280 Dundas St West and a group is meeting there to call him out on not just cuts to the arts, but to climate change programs and income trust promises as well.

Image of Canadian pennies, excluding artists counting them, from www.canada.com

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