The government you helped elect (perhaps not directly, if you’re actually reading this) is doing great things.
By now, you’re well aware of the federal government’s highly questionable decision to withdraw funding from Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival. While I’m not quite ready to say that I categorically believe this was in direct response to the festival’s production of Homegrown, this is the same government that has a documented history of lying to the public, altering documents in a way that would get a private citizen thrown in jail, castrating organized labour, and blinding itself in both eyes by crippling its own Census.
So, you know, I wouldn’t put it past them.
Then again, there’s only so much grant money to go around, and more and more arts organizations competing for the same pool of cash. It seems reasonable that established, successful concerns might see their funding fall off as the government tries to spread it around to encourage groups just getting their start.
One way or the other, the arts have to find a way to depend less on the financial support of a small-minded, dishonest government that seems intent on marching us straight back into the 19th century, and more on… well, us. The general public.
It’s not a begging game. The arts are more use to society—and individuals—than can be put into words alone.
For instance, there’s no better way to learn good, persuasive English (or any other language) than through the study of literature: poetry, plays, and novels. Is it important to learn good, persuasive English? Oh, I should say its rather important. The number of people boasting communications degrees who can’t compose a single simple coherent sentence… why, I heard just recently on the CBC (what’s left of it) that they’re thinking of taking Shakespeare out of the Grade 9 and 10 curricula. Yet almost every day I see someone on Twitter swept up in the throes of an epiphany, some new revelation about the human condition, that was eloquently summarized in a heroic couplet about 400 years ago. It turns out that artists have been distilling human experience for as long as our species has been able to make marks on rocks. Why ignore all that work? It may be too late to redo high school, but if you read a little and go catch a little theatre, you might learn something and save time by not reinventing the wheel.
Any person involved in business should certainly experience, if not study, the performance arts. I’ve been to too many truly awful presentations; the average person could stand to take in some theatre or some spoken word to see how it’s really done. You’d be surprised what a little stagecraft or attention to cadence will do to your ability to influence a roomful of people.
By the way, have we thought of what we’re doing to the cultural record? As it stands, if future generations write of us at all (provided they can still write), what will they say? That our popular symbols included the Guy Fawkes mask, lifted wholesale from history? That half of our correspondence consisted of repeating the same phrase over and over again with minor variations (I believe you call that a “meme”. I recommend looking up “memetics”). That people were willing to pay money to hear already well-known (misogynistic) rap lyrics overlaid on already well-known classic rock guitar riffs? Will this be known as the Age of Copying?
Or dare we encourage the creation of something new?
How do we go about doing this?
Probably the most obvious way is to choose your favourite sector of the arts (theatre? dance? the visual or plastic arts? music? literature? film?) and devote as much of your entertainment dollar as you can stomach to enjoying that art.
Maybe you can spare some of the cash you would normally export to the States by going to see shitty movies, and catch a local theatre production instead. Or you could divert the forty bucks you drop on alcohol any given week to buy a locally-written book, throw five dollars in the box at an art gallery, catch a local band—and still have cash left over for a pint! If you’re bound and determined to exchange your pay for a headache at the pub, you could at least buy beer from breweries that sponsor the arts (McAuslan comes to mind).
Speaking of sponsorship: if you own or operate a small or medium business, sponsor an arts organization. Large businesses do; heck, the banks do, and nobody’s better at making money than the banks. Follow their lead. Most arts organizations will be more than happy to put your name on everything they print and the walls too if you help them pay the rent. Artists are also fiercely loyal customers and clients with very long, accurate memories.
The greatest artistic renaissances in history occurred after periods of great oppression—helping to end them, and lift entire societies out of ignorance and economic depression.
I’d rather prefer we headed it off at the pass this time.