I have been quite silent throughout the election campaign, which is odd, since I usually have strong opinions about the necessity of participation in the democratic process. With that said, I write today with the simple message that it’s important not only to vote, but to cast a thoughtful, informed vote. As Artists and stewards of the Art (which is what we as administrators essentially are) it’s important for us to say what we think, not only about the Arts, but about our society as a whole. This is, after all, the purpose of artistic expression in many ways.
Some of my colleagues have been asked why Artists have been less vocal this election. I believe there are two main factors:
1) Current federal funding levels are not openly threatened and for the Arts to lobby for increases in a time of restraint among governments will very likely make us look like whiners. Nevertheless, many groups, including PACE and the Canadian Arts Coalition, among others, continue to pursue an ongoing dialogue with politicians at all levels of government. This helps not only to raise awareness and educate them about the intrinsic value of what we do, but also serves to remind politicians that their constituents care about the Arts.
2) This year there has been a greater need to focus on survival. Many Artists and Arts organizations across North America (and beyond) have faced severe revenue challenges from several quarters. It seems that no one is immune. Many have faced declines in donations, sponsorships, grants, and earned revenue as the economy remains tight, despite the optimism from time to time in much of the media. With expenses already cut to the bone, there have already been hard decisions to make. After such a dramatic economic downturn, recovery is slow and cautious. The world – and audiences – are changing in ways we couldn’t have predicted even 5 years ago, and it is taking time and vast amounts of energy to adapt. I, for one, am tired as I near the end of a long season, and I’m sure I’m not alone. All of this has left little room to focus on anything but the task at hand, despite the need.
Of course, this probably sounds overly dramatic and indeed things aren’t completely hopeless. Adaptation isn’t, after all, a bad thing. However, realities remain and the one way we can all effect change is to get out and cast a thoughtful vote. Thankfully, there are organizations such as the Canadian Arts Coalition (see link above), who have put together good information to make sure we can head to the polls with the right information. Along with the websites, don’t hesitate to check out each organization on facebook, and/or follow them on Twitter. There’s also this lively political debate on Arts from Thursday’s edition of Q, on CBC.