Tag: arts funding

Sing & Dance & Run & Jump

Thanks to Twitter, I came across a wonderful op-ed piece in the Amherst Bulletin about the importance of arts funding. There’s certainly been no shortage of wonderful news relating to the arts this week: the appointment of Rocco Landesman to head up the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House arts evening, and even, if you can believe, the Seattle Opera advertising their position for a young person to see and report on the Wagner Ring cycle they’ll be producing in August.

But then there’s the bad news: in Canada, several important arts institutions are facing funding shortfalls. With the wonderful chaos of June approaching (Luminato, NXNE, the Toronto Jazz Festival, Pride), the issue of cultural relevance is that much more pungent. There’s also the depressing fact that Canada’s art galleries and museums are falling apart , meaning that many younger people -as well as visitors from overseas or across the border -may never be able to see the incredible cultural legacy of this country.

Would any of this happen if there was a real balance of arts and academia in childhood? I was lucky to have been educated in the arts outside of school; going to operas, symphonies, museums and galleries was plus normale for me growing up. But not every kid was blessed with an arts-loving mother. And so, it falls to schools to often provide what kids can’t or don’t get at home. That usually includes everything from proper nutrition to social interaction to basic manners.

What irks me is that whenever schools are facing funding shortfalls, the first thing to go is always, inevitably, arts programs. Yup! They’re frilly! Arrgh. I used to make a face and wonder why physical education wasn’t cut instead (spoken by a true non-athlete), but I realized, in starting to appreciate the cultural place sport has in society, and the benefits of movement, that phys-ed has every right to be taken as seriously as arts-ed. And vice-versa.

To quote Mindy Domb, in the Amherst Bulletin:

Art and music teach our children how to think critically, take risks, make and correct mistakes, “fail,” and recoup. They give our children a frame of reference for understanding not only our world, but also offer an appreciation and understanding of the different perspectives, approaches and ways of communicating each of us brings to the human endeavor… Cutting physical education while the public health community urges additional opportunities for physical activity for children seems regressive and backwards. Physical education might look like an easy mark, a target that can be tapped for funding without ill effects. This, however, dismisses the needs of our kids to be active and to learn from play. It also ignores the call of the public health community to provide more physical education for young children, not less.

These times we’re in seem like the perfect opportunity to start making investments, not pulling away in fear. The investment in a lifetime of good health and positive relationships seems like a good one.

Related: If you haven’t read Christopher Knight’s take on Landesman’s appointment to the National Endowment for the arts, you really should. It’s excellent.

Stimulate The Future, Argues Florida

In a brilliant piece in this weekend’s edition of The Globe and Mail, Richard Florida argues that investment in the arts is an integral part of solving the current economic crisis. As I swallowed down rivers of tea and tried to mind the bad news exploding from every corner, recalled Obama’s past support for the National Endowment for the Arts. All things considered, Florida’s argument makes a wonderful kind of sense:

What drives the economy today is not the old mix of highways and single-family homes but new, idea-driven industries. They range from software, communication devices and biotechnologies to culture and entertainment – and importantly the convergence of the two.

What I love about Florida’s writing is that he isn’t into finger-pointing and blame so much as solutions and ideas. Seems like that’s just what the doctor ordered. Now if only I could figure out a way to stop getting colds.

Hopes Bud; Get dashed. Sort of.

The Federal Budget was released this afternoon. Every television channel and radio station in Canada was covering the announcement; this is a big one for us, because it could mean the fall of the current Conservative government over a vote of non-confidence by opposition parties, if they don’t like what they see. And the dissolution of Parliament could mean an election within months.

So far, there’s been reaction from two of Canada’s opposition parties: the NDP and the Bloc. Verdict for both? Thumbs down to Jim Flaherty et al. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (leader of the third opposition party) spoke briefly with reporters too; the rise or fall of the Stephen Harper’s Conservatives essentially rests with Ignatieff and the Grits. What did he say? He didn’t. While he likes some elements, he and the party have issues with other things tabled within Flaherty’s report. He’s going to announce the Liberal reaction tomorrow at 11am.

It was with particular interest that I’ve been noting the expectations and hopes centred around the release of today’s budget; in some ways they very much mirror the expectations and hopes surrounding the start of the Obama presidency. Lord knows there are many, many issues at hand right now -the economy being the biggest. But as an arts-lover, I don’t necessarily think art and the economy are at odds. James Bradshaw reported on the connections between the two recently. Arts economy is economy, period. It’s work, it’s money, it’s energy. It seems like Heritage Minister James Moore understands this. There’s been a nice allocation of money ($160 million, in fact) put towards the arts sector. President Obama gets the relationship between the two as well.

But in the same way there’s an inherent connection with arts and economy, there exists the same between the latter and environment. Everything is everything, and it seems like more people are aware of that, even as there are those who cling desperately to the old ways. James Clancy, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees, lays out the intimate connections between environment and economy in a convincing piece on Green Nexxus. He says: “This is the opportunity of our lifetime; to lead the transformation to a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.” I’d add, “and a vibrant arts scene” to that.

Binding everything is our access to share and deseminate information. The Globe and Mail created a Wiki on Public Policy in anticipation of the budget, and it was a neat bit of interaction. CBC and Cisco started One Million Acts of Green back in the fall (encouragingly, they’re seven months ahead of schedule in hitting their target, too). The budget announcement this afternoon featured live blogging by various media. Part of President Obama’s stimulus package includes money for technology. Now that’s forward-thinking… make that present-thinking, and present-embracing. Michael Geist has thoughts about the Conservatives’ allocation of money for technology and comparisons to spending in other countries. It all underlines the ways in which the internet have re-shaped our perceptions and understandings around the most vital issues of the day.

Now, let’s wait to hear what Mr. Ignatieff will say tomorrow morning. I’ll be watching online, and wondering who will be adding voices to the discussion.

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