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.
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.