To the Editor:
I guess I was a little disturbed by the results of the poll for support for an aboriginal art centre and boreal discovery centre. How much taxpayers' money supports sports teams and the building of arenas; how much money supports other projects?
If we looked at the breakdown of any government support for arts and culture and the way the pie gets divided arts and culture are by far simply the crumbs. Money is spent on the justice system, education and health systems and no one asks how art actually enhances and defines our lives?
First of all it's all about money. And art created money. Years ago sovereign kings and emperors wanted to be remembered by the masses for keeping them safe etc and so they had artisans create their likeness on pieces of metal. These tokens evolved into a system of money. Even to this day without the artwork money would simply be metal, paper or plastic. Gabrielle Roy (1909-1993) is quoted on our Canadian $20 bill: "Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts."
Now as for grants, most of the Canada Council for the Arts budget is spent on artists and arts organization in Ontario and Quebec. Most of the Manitoba Arts Council funds are spent in Winnipeg. The province of Manitoba Culture Heritage and Tourism moved their art consultants to an art branch in Winnipeg and we rarely see any of them beyond the perimeter. If there are grants available designated for use then I support Thompson and the board for the Aboriginal Arts Centre for trying to enhance our arts and artists.
While I do think it crazy that Canadian Heritage can only find funds to support new builds those are the rules. In these economic times, I would much rather see us partner with UCN for a program and gallery. All the other universities and colleges in the province have a gallery and curatorial staff to increase our exposure to the arts beyond posters and knock off masters in cheap frames. Why should Thompson or The Pas campus not also have a gallery?
I love that for years the National Exhibition Centre had a gallery right in the mall in Leaf Rapids and folks could get their groceries, drop and pick up books at their library and walk in and see art from local and provincial artists and tours when they had a chance to come north. As a librarian in our schools, I have posters of great art, Aboriginal and Canadian and from around the world, from different times and genres, all so kids can see different ways we express our lives and culture. I love that Thompson has many volunteer-driven boards that have worked hard to provide us with arts in this community.
Having had the privilege to study art and cultures, I value opportunities to go to museums and galleries. I value unique creative expression and do not want to see all the same American television programs or dominant cultural icons. We have talent here in the North and other countries recognize its value. Art dealers buy up works and resell them for huge profits in Europe and other countries. Artists don't see any of this to benefit their talents, their dedication to their craft or to provide for them in times when they might not be able to work as hard. I want our artists to feel valued. I want them to learn to appreciate all they give of themselves and I want their creative rights protected. Many artists learn through the school of hard knocks. We have an opportunity to provide a program that can educate artists about sales agreement, copyright laws, estate planning, legal issues, intellectual and cultural property, portfolio development and website design, proposals for exhibitions and a host of different ways to improve their skills under the guidance of established artists aboriginal or not.
As an exhibition artist I have competed for grants. I have had to prove my work was of a quality to be rewarded with any funds. Many apply and few are chosen. I am happy that I was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Canadian RBC glass artist of the year for my beadwork mixed media works. I couldn't have done a lot of my work without grants and the support of a lot of artists and arts organizations that helped me navigate the labyrinth of professional arts world from Thompson. This week a major showing of my work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery will finish after five months. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being an artist and having work in this gallery. Some of my art and that of my talented kids are at the Heritage North Museum and I am equally pleased to have Northern folks have this opportunity supported by the small budget allocated for the arts locally.
I do however wish at times I lived in Saskatchewan as their government in 2009 introduced a professional arts act and gave federal status more meaning there. Our province of Manitoba needs to review and re-establish its arts and cultural policies since it has not changed since 1991 and our world has. Didn't get a chance to vote in the poll, but I know art defines not only our dollars, but also us as Thompsonites and Canadians.