Tag Archives: culture

Spaces

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

Space is the new objective in our present day, North American culture. As Toronto fills up with millionaires and pushes working people asunder throughout the area around Lake Ontario, some brave enough to come as far as Peterborough, space has become the subject of discussion throughout many different communities. In my community space has always been a topic of fraught discussion. Money seems to only flow to bricks and mortar instead of people. That may be because construction and development have been the way urban centers pay for their growth. It’s an old model but the structures that give these businesses the access and power to rule have grown into almost monarch style fixtures on our financial landscape, so much so that one of their own occupies the White House.

Space however has become conceptual to many as their lives can exist through their laptop meaning that a coffee shop or a park can be a place for a business transaction. It can also be a studio or collaborative as more and more platforms allow creative people to interact online as well as in person. Many artists have turned to film and sound and music and photography or they film or record their art as a way to expand how they share what they are making – almost all can be done on a device of some sort.

But everyone who makes things needs a place to work. You need a place for your tools, a place to leave your unfinished thing so that you can sleep on how it’s going overnight, and a place you don’t need to tidy up because in fact the messy-ness can help you through a rough patch of configuring. If you write for a living you know you need quiet for great lengths of time. If you make noise you know you need to be a part from people who will complain. If you collaborate you need a place to meet. We can’t all take to the streets to figure our work out – we actually need professional places that can serve the things we are doing.

My studio last spring. I have some pride in the fact that a developer will never kick me out.

Business figured this out a long time ago and hence we have always had offices. Studios or work spaces are just as important. But buildings are not built for people, they are generally built because of investment money and the long chain of companies and individuals (who all have their own spaces) who stand to make a profit once that place is built. So, it’s never about a community or whether we need the building or not. It’s just a very pure financial transaction that only helps about ten people really. Sure there are lots of jobs and electricians and all sorts of working class heroics involved but really, at the end of the day ten people make enough money to retire, or buy a yacht or a space in some other exotic locale.

Of course there are many architects and developers who actually care and try their best to create places for people. However the ratio of them to those who don’t care is pretty lopsided. So, how do you change this? Laws. Laws that demand development take into account the nature of the community they are building in, laws that make spaces for all sorts of income levels and laws that protect creativity. “But laws will hinder investment and scare the money off!”  Yes it will because we should only want the best kind of developments and the best kind of spaces. We shouldn’t compromise on our space.

People talk a lot about how we have to decolonize our culture and begin thinking differently about this and that. What we should also do is begin thinking about spaces and how they must resist the pursuit of maximized profit. Space is an area between each other – how we share it and use it helps us develop how we work with each other and eventually defines who we are and who we will become.

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A message to our new Minister of Canadian Heritage

Victoria Ward
Victoria Ward

cropped-troutinplaid2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Joly we, Trout in Plaid and Victoria Ward would like you to consider these following ideas as you begin your new role as Minister of Heritage. We believe the arts; especially cultures in rural and smaller places have been neglected these last, long nine years. In that time both the Trout and I have written many, many blogs, read many, many articles and engaged in our communities regarding the arts extensively. We are not experts but we have listened and participated in culture and believe we have something to offer. The following are ten ideas that we believe need attention from the Federal government.

FUNDING

• Federal funding for the arts should broadly support artists and arts organizations rather than their product. The arts are an interconnected ecology and quality art evolves from diversity. Grant applications are excessively complex and reward those who follow standardized forms of education, exposure, career development, etc., but not necessarily innovation. Grants, by their short term nature, leave artists and arts organizations in a constant state of precarity. Conversely corporate sponsorships and partnerships run the risk of diluting and influencing the integrity of the work.

• We need to bring back the national exhibition transportation program. Take the burden of exhibiting across this enormous country off the galleries, the arts councils and artists and take up the responsibility for making art exhibitions national.

• Digital Content Investment or DCI charge on our ISP bills. We see the new digital world as a place where devices have become venues and sharing has become audience building. But, creative people who provide the imagery and writing (not unlike what we both do here) are never compensated properly given how much our work is shared and makes impact. What if there was a fund that came directly from people who used the internet to look at all the stuff that artists made? The fund would be administered through an existing body but distributed among services like CARFAC or other organizations that create and sustain the environment for making art as well as helping fund opportunities to pay creative people to make content.

• We need innovative funding models and new funding ideas. As a community we should be at the forefront in this thinking so why not set up a national round table on the issue of funding the arts specifically. We need to discuss alternative ideas like basic income. Why isn’t the meritocracy of the art world discussing basic income? Cover an artist’s studio, utilities and other essential costs and wham you’ve got a way more productive artist.

EDUCATION

• While the cost of a post secondary education has become prohibitive in all sectors, the cost of an arts education is punitive in a field where even successful practitioners live well below the poverty line. Art schools and institutions that emphasize entrepreneurship in the arts devalue an individual artist’s process and present the arts to the public through the limited lens of business and economics.

Tout in Plaid art blog's fierce independent thinking & creativity is exactly the right kind of tool for capacity building in an art community
The blog Trout in Plaid fills a very needy void. Smaller places deserve attention too.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

• Arts and culture should be viewed as a cornerstone, a unique element of the economy that cannot be quantified, but which generates not only economic value but immense social value through education, public discourse and engagement, community building, neighbourhood enrichment, enhancement of mental health and creative thinking, representing and encouraging diversity, amplifying our global presence and status.

• We need an ongoing educational relationship with the public of all demographics about the value of diverse arts practices. Street art spectacles and festivals can help to engage the public, but are only a fraction of cultural practice. Use artists as a resource (with pay of course) in all aspects of governance! They are by nature problem-solving, outside the box thinkers.

• Let’s lay off on the festivals and one off art parties for a bit shall we? These are often largely focused in big cities, at the expense of smaller places. Long term sustainability of the arts should be the focus of the federal government. An environment that allows art making to thrive is a lot more complicated and a lot less sexy than a big, celebrity driven art event but… the goal isn’t next year, the goal is the next ten, twenty years. We should shift money to resources, individual artists, artist groups and organizations that are in the business of actually making art, and actually helping art being made, not making money from art related ideas.

END THE DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF CERTAIN CULTURAL COMMUNITIES

• Artists bring value to rural communities, not just large urban centres and should be encouraged. However, a rural art practice can have special challenges and costs – lack of access to education and professional development, higher material costs, additional transportation expenses or lack of access to affordable internet. It is important to work with provincial and municipal levels of government to level the playing field for rural artists.

• Engage older, veteran artists. Young people are great and all but when it comes to art you may be surprised that the biggest risk takers, biggest innovators and most dedicated people are well into their 50s and beyond. This is a group badly maligned by the media and yet, they are the generation who created the arts councils, CARFAC, many of the galleries we have now and loads of other things that you are too young to remember. These people are a fantastic resource, please don’t shuffle them off with a Governor General award – celebrate their contribution and ask them what they think.