There has been some brutal slashing of arts funding in BC, not to mention Canada. However, the BC government slashed funding quietly, in the background and almost to nil for most things. Magazines and performance groups that have continued for many years have suddenly found themselves out of business. We already know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes artists stand around at elite galas sipping champagne and hobnobbing.
Well let me put into perspective why art is important, and to do that for our local governments I’ll talk about it in a way they can recognize.
First, why does Canada subsidize the arts and have arts grants that other countries scoff at or are jealous of (let’s just say the US)? Because it costs the same to produce a movie (renting equipment, paying actors and crew), or produce an album (studio and recording fees, paying musicians), or publish a book (printing and layout costs, staff, distribution), etc. For every form of art there are costs and they are similar no matter which country one is in. However, Canada’s population base is much much smaller than the US’s. To make any profit from the expenses that go into producing anything from a stage play to a picture book requires a certain number of sales/patrons attending or buying. Canada’s population tops out around 33 million to the US’s 304 million. Even ten percent attendance/sales is a big difference between these two countries.
Of course, if we want to just dismiss Canadian culture and say we are a cheap facsimile of the United States, well then it won’t really matter and Canadian art be damned. Yet that is only part of the picture, Mr. Premier and Prime Minister. There is far more that makes art than sales.
Without art you would not have those campaign speeches, nor the speeches you give throughout your term in office. Speechwriters learn their craft and writing is an art. Without art you would not have campaign posters or brochures or pamphlets without which it would be harder to influence the voting public. Graphic designers go to school to learn the elements of design, composition, color, effectiveness, etc. and that is an art. Without art you would not have those televised moments of your promises or the carefully crafted ads to make you look good and to make your opponent look bad. TV ads are done by camera men, directors, writers, and a host of people. Putting together a good ad is an art.
Without art you would not look so good in your suits. Clothing is designed by people who go through school to perfect their craft. You’d be wearing handcrafted burlap of a similar design to everyone around you. Clothing design is an art. Without art you might not have a national anthem. Musicians and songwriters go to school and work to hone their skills, and music is an art.
Without art you would have a world of unhappy people with no entertainment except for the elite rich who could pay the high prices. There would be no music to listen to, no books to read, no shows to watch, no beautiful pictures or dances to see. Without art you would enter a dull policelike state where unfortunately even the signs would have to be done by some artist but where the voice of knowledge would be silenced. Yes, knowledge comes with education. Knowledge of the history and depth of a discipline whether it be music, dance, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, designing. Without these skills we will enter back into the simplistic drawings and songs of children. Without art challenging boundaries and perspectives, we cannot grow as a society or reflect on our deeds.
Next on the chopping block will probably be literacy. I’d think that the ministers of culture in the respective levels of government might be doing a nervous dance right now. After all, without art and culture that the BC government has almost wiped out, we won’t have very much and those ministers won’t have a job. So, Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, have you yet figured out which part of art is part of every day life and keeps you in your jobs?