State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

“Creativity – as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation – is not a viable product. It has been priced out into irrelevance – both by the professionalization of the industries that claim it, and the soaring cost of entry to those professions.” Sarah Kenzior, Al Jazeera

This blog is about my move to the country and how I can never return to the city due to exorbitant costs.

In 2000 I moved from a loft in Parkdale, Toronto to my little log cabin in the Boreal Forest, located somewhere and nowhere between Peterborough and Algonquin Park. I did this because most of my friends were having kids or buying homes, essentially moving forward in their lives. Mine had stalled. Two years before my mother died suddenly and I was trying to extricate myself from the theatre world – it was a fairly awful time in my life. There was one bright spot and that was meeting my partner. He and I decided after some long talks that perhaps we should leave the city and try to do something new for both of us.

And so we set off to the country, bought a log cabin, renovated an out building into a studio and set about trying to make careers for ourselves as artists. It was, as you can imagine a fairly substantial transition, difficult but we were not the types to shy away from difficult. We had convinced ourselves we were pursuing something that you just couldn’t describe – it seemed absurd on one hand and yet so meaningful on another. This dichotomy made us happy.

Our studio in the woods as seen from a house window.
Our studio in the woods as seen from a house window.

Unfortunately the world around our cozy bubble seemed to change for the worse. I’ve written about many of the dramatic transformations in the art world  here but the most sensational has been the catastrophic disappearance of patronage, the unwillingness to pay artists/creative workers for their time and work by everybody it seems and that living in a city now entails a small fortune just to get by.

Things change. I get that and I am not unwilling to adapt however these shifts should not be taken as law – we should have some hand in how society treats those in creative fields and how we represent ourselves as artists as well as how we represent art in general.

“Art’s counterculture, however diverse, holds in plain sight what the material world denies – love and imagination.” Jeanette Winterson

Art and creativity are what helped create who we are. Winterson’s essay is correct in her assessment that it is through art we become us. We cannot imagine what we might become, but we got here through supporting creativity. Turning artists and creative workers into babysitters for the rich as the Al Jazeera article suggests is happening in places like New York city will be damaging over time. Time to get out, find a bubble you can work in, learn to be more self sufficient, create some infrastructure for yourself and reach out to smaller communities – we did and we are still here working and creating.

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5 thoughts on “State of the Arts”

  1. This is where I feel like I should just start saying “Yes I am”, when people ask me if I am an artist. An artist creates their life on an ongoing basis whereas many people often accept that life is something due to forces that act upon them. There is an acceptance that things are a certain way and they act accordingly. No doubt some art is happening in the larger scenes but I will agree that what has happened in many places is merely a fetishization of how people with ungodly amounts of money can flaunt their spending as a form of status. It become rather different when an artist has to appeal to that kind of motivation. A mind constantly willing to jettison what isn’t in vogue in favour of what is cannot truly be called the mind of an artist.

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