Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Different Pictures for New Culture Plan: Report on Final Creative Capital Initiative Consultation up at OpenFile Toronto

Toronto's Culture Plan is being revamped at high speed this spring. Where the last 2003 plan took two years of consultations to write, this 2011 plan, to be released May 4, took two months.

The plan is worth considering for anyone in the cultural sector of our city as it lays out priorities and goals for municipal spending in the arts over (in my estimate) the next four to ten years.

As I found out at the final culture-plan consultation (officially called the Creative Capital Initiative consultation) on Thursday, April 7, the methamphetamine-esque pace of our new plan is driven by a need to get it in before council starts its budget process next month, as well as a service review this week. Both of these processes will determine, in the words of Councillor Janet Davis, “what will get axed and what survives," so the case for culture needs to be made for councillors before they get down to voting time.

You can find out more about what happened at that final consultation in my report recently posted over at OpenFile Toronto. An excerpt:

How can Toronto be a creative city if Mayor Rob Ford has launched a war on graffiti?

How important can the arts be in Toronto’s future if its new culture plan has mostly been written before youth are asked for input?

How vital can the arts be as an economic driver when many workers in the sector are poorly paid and possess little job security?

These were among the concerns expressed by some of the more than 100 people who attended the Creative Capital Initiative consultation at Toronto City Hall on April 7. It was the last of 11 such public meetings, and the only one aimed specifically at youth. The consultations, to gather recommendations for the city’s new culture plan, started in early February.

Councillor Michael Thompson, who led the push on the culture plan and is head of the Economic Development Committee, where the finalized culture plan will be unveiled May 4, says the speediness of the process also reflects his desire to prioritize culture at the city.

As Thompson told me in an interview, "This is not about lip service [for culture]. If it was, we would not ask that this matter comes forward in a very short time frame. I know they talked before about 'we could have something in a year's time,' and I just said 'I don't have a year. We don't have a year.'"

Thompson is bullish on culture as a business. When I asked him about people who might disagree with him, and say that art is sacred, not necessarily a commercial endeavour, he said, "I say they're entitled to their opinion... and they're wrong."

Thompson also pointed to the success of his father in law, photographer George Zimbel, as proof that can artistic success and business success can be intertwined. On his website, he also states more general facts and figures: "Toronto's cultural sector employs nearly 133,000 people and annually generates $9 billion in GDP... Between 1991 and 2007, creative occupations grew at more than twice the rate of the general labour force."

If you want to have input into the (mostly written) culture plan, tomorrow (April 13) is the cutoff. You can comment at http://www.livewithculture.ca/category/creative-capital-initiative/ or, I was told at the meeting, email rdavies@toronto.ca with your concerns.

More info on what happened at the consultations is available on the Creative Capital Initiative website and at Praxis Theatre, which helpfully solicited tweets from arts orgs during the last two consultations in the process.

(Image of CCI Consultations on April 7 by Nick Kozak for OpenFile)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Leaving the developement of art up to politicians and businessmen is a guaranteed disaster. Neither has the incentive nor the education for this task, and left brain work lacks vision for change and future.
What is needed is a pooling of resources by the artists themselves
thru common purpose.In visual arts those who work from an aesthetic base are quite different from those who are in a mental activity.
The goals are not the same, the results and concerns are not the same. Aesthetic based artists can contribute directly to a society's
culture long term by creating a public realm of beauty.None of this
is being done to-day because of the
confusion of styles, lack of art exposure and education, and finally
the oppressive commercialization of
society. Good examples are the Fords, Bay street streets and what is called public art in To. So, who
can pull these soloist art workers
to one common purpose? James Mc Donald, sculptor.