Arts and Culture TOPS in SD&SG and Cornwall Ontario – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – June 29, 2011

Cornwall ON – Two very interesting reports have completed recently.    The first was the TOP report or 2011 Trends, Opportunities and Priorities Report which focuses on SD&SG, Cornwall, and Prescott Russell and covers an awful lot of ground.   It’s insightful and you can get a real snap shot of our area and how it’s trending.

Denis Thibault of the EOTB


Tuesday after noon at the Cornwall Civic Complex the results of over $100,000 were shared.   It lasted nearly two hours, but only shared a few conclusions.   The area needed to develop its Arts and Culture and the best way to do that was to create an Arts Council and Arts Centre.    I’m paraphrasing of course.   There were an awful lot of people listening attentively and quite a few questions.

What struck myself and a bunch of people I’ve chatted with is that there were only 173 people out of a population base of the all the surrounding counties of close to 200,000 so how important are arts and culture to the residents of this region and who exactly is pushing for this drive with all the costs associated?

Well if you read the TOP report you can draw some conclusions to possibly answer that and other questions.   As you can see from the chart at the top of this page SD&SG has an older population.    Yes, this region is quite attractive to retirees from Ottawa, Montreal, and in fact many parts of Canada, but there’s the other issue of young people leaving; and when young people leave who will work for companies that fuel the tax base and if that perception grows then less companies come and you can see where that leads.

Cornwall; the largest city in the region is growing.  Yes it can grow faster, and yes it can do some things better, but you can say that for almost any city.

What the report does nail down is that Culture and the Arts play a role in retaining young people and attracting migration.  Even amongst the immigrant community the trend is stable.

As you can see from this chart the only group of gain of population for SD&SG is the 45-64 group which means that immigrants children are leaving for various reasons.   Education numbers get skewed by people leaving as well as there are lower numbers of management and finance earners in this area.

What this chart shows is a glaring deficiency in University grads and a large amount above the average for those with no degree or High School certificate.

Could you imagine the improvement to the tax base if the numbers above ( 11, 255 University grads) and the increase of earning power and thus additions to the various tax base?

So the picture that starts to evolve is that Arts and Culture can retain young people, generally with better educations and earning power which would attract more business to Cornwall creating better paying jobs and prosperity to the city and SD&SG.

That brings us to two things; one the true definition of Arts and Culture which in many of the documents I’ve sifted through include Sports and Recreation.      If you have a beverage and chat Arts and Culture literally have no limits in their definition.  Andy Warhol proved that way back in the Sixties and Seventies.

As someone that’s moved to Cornwall nearly eight years ago and recently chose to stay here rather than move to Vancouver I can categorically state that there are huge opportunities for Arts and Culture to flourish in this region; especially in Cornwall; but for that to happens the culture that exists needs to improve and change.     Obviously high levels of governments in the region like many communities in Eastern Ontario are embracing the belief and understanding of the value that strong Arts and Cultural presences lead to stronger Tourism; retention of younger residents; and economic prosperity; especially in light of a reduction to the industrial base.

So what attracts the elements that attract Arts and Culture?  Is it just about money?   While artists need to feed themselves and their families it truly is more than money.   Artists need to practice their art and grow their craft and that’s easier said than done.

For any area to attract and retain their artists they have to create and support the ability of Artists to grow.    This can be from infrastructure support; which means venues, community support, marketing support, ease of opportunity.   If you look at areas that have gentrified you can see that Artists flock to where it’s easy to work and live; IE low costs while still practice.   Those opportunities could be stronger in this area.

It also has to truly be more welcoming to new comers.  I can share that with my pedigree artistically I was aghast at the attitude I met by some local art darlings who really hadn’t accomplished anything near what I have.   That’s not to brag, but simply share that it’s not all about government writing cheques.     Cliqueism where the same people get the same gigs and support also tend to turn off artists.     And artists do talk amongst each other which helps spread the word; good and bad.

In my opinion it takes local governments putting some seed money into the community to support the arts.  For example Cornwall’s 2011 budget has almost no money devoted to the arts directly.  Yes, they spend on the local library; a few museums, and an art gallery, but again; if you want to grow something you have to nurture it.

Musically local venues and events have to support and promote their events and the artists that participate.   Lift Off, the signature event for the area doesn’t truly support local acts forcing them to work for free and not promoting them.  If you go to the Lift Off website as of this date, June 29, 2011 you don’t see any mention of local acts while spending thousands on faded acts like Kim Mitchell.   Again, these are painless and productive simple actions that could help to promote and nurture local talent.  (We’re about to do a story on Lift Off shortly so stay tuned)

Because in the end if you look at what happens when magic strikes, when a “scene” starts to happen places can change.  Look to Olympia Washington when Grunge hit in the 90’s.    Create something that excites people and that will attract others.   It’s that simple.

And that’s the carrot.  That’s the final goal.  If any region invests in an Arts Centre and its artists and they succeed and attract people more young people will be able to live and work and maybe even want to move to SD&SG.

In the meanwhile I hope to do more this year to support the Arts and Cultural community of this region as I’ve tried to do since our inception.   After all  this newspaper is a part of the Cultural mosaic of our community locally and right across Canada!

For more info about Culture in SD&SG and the report click this LINK.

Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News.

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site, their staff, or sponsors.)

Cornwall & Seaway Valley Tourism



  1. I can see more contests, awards and prize monies being presented in various artistic fields to attract attention and draw in outside talent. It doesn’t have to be big but it does have to be something you can fold in your wallet. The Mayor could make a bigger deal for the media by shaking hands, in public, with winners and contenders in various fields. Orillia is a small town and they have the Leacock Award to help keep them on the map with great success. We have more guitar players than most big cities but zero are presented on regional radio stations. Local artists could put up samples of their art work on local utility poles for all to see, no law against that.

  2. Journalists, artists and writers portray Cornwall to the world. A little petting can go a long way.

  3. Cornwall and area is FULL of artists. A little disdain for the region, lack of commitment because of social stigma and higher hopes of moving on, (as shown in the report), fuels our lack of an apparent artistic community. My artistic talent and well deserved education can only take me so far here, even if I try and I know it, BECAUSE of lack of opportunity as well. My ideas to start an indie game development group are still in the works however.


  4. Author

    Good for you Kristine! Kudos to anyone that tries to make magic happen. Cross your fingers because I presented an initial proposal to government and a few agencies that will be huge news if they truly want to work with and support Arts and Culture in the region. 🙂

  5. While reading I thought of a farmers market type of event. Provide a reduced rate at the Civic Complex or such to display their wares. One weekend local artists then another music or combine with the outdoor bandshell in the summer and add some street theater. There must be some associations that could run with that idea and advertise outside of the local area.
    I am not for taxpayers paying for everything continually, but some seed money may be needed or reduced rates at City facilities.

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