Friday, July 24, 2009

Federal Arts Funding Pledged for Five Years!

The last thing I want to do is let Soul Food be all about politics, but it seems only right to follow up my worried post about rumoured slashes to BC arts funding with good news on the federal front.

Last month, Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore announced that the government would renew its annual commitment of $25 million in funding for the Canada Council for the Arts for the next five years, as well as its current commitments to the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and Canada Arts Presentation Fund (also for five years).

The duration of this funding commitment to the arts is unprecedented by the current federal government, and is a great reassurance to those of us working in arts and culture, particularly in such uncertain economic times.

Sometimes I think about what our country would be like without the arts, how impoverished we would be without plays and music and film and literature to lift our spirits, particularly in tough times. I think of the musician who played in the streets of Sarajevo in defiance of snipers, and the cellist who refused to cancel performances during the bombing of London. I think of the lift to my spirit experiencing LES MISERABLES at the Arts Club last night... the reminder of unconditional, undeserved, undying love (Love?) in Bard's crisply directed, soulfully performed ALL'S WELL under the tent in Vanier Park... I savour my anticipation of A COMEDY OF ERRORS in Queen's Park (New West) this weekend, and THE ROAD TO CANTERBURY in Queen Liz Park a couple weeks from now... I recall my delight in Reece Terris's "Ought Apartment" at the VAG a few weeks back, even the lift I experienced at UP... And I think how threadbare my life would be without these infusions of life and imagination. God gave these gifts so we could refresh one another, stimulate and challenge and wake each other up from time to time, elevate our gaze beyond our personal concerns and preoccupations and see the wider world. Never more needed than when things are difficult, and those difficulties become all the more likely to overwhelm us.

I haven't chosen my examples to build a case. Some of those art events are happening with the help of government funding, some are happening in spite of its lack. People will always make art: it's how we're built. But some of the best art, some of the greatest visions, simply can't be realized without patronage. Same as it ever was.

So I celebrate the federal government's affirmation that it does have a role to play in this utterly essential aspect of the community's life. Such work stimulates our economy, to be sure: more importantly, it stimulates our spirit.

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