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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Which side am I on?

My friends in BC are pretty upset with the Campbell government right now. There are massive cuts to arts happening right now. A lot of them are highly involved with the arts community, so these cuts will affect them directly.

I find myself torn about the whole thing.

On the one hand, I don't believe that it's the government's responsibility to fund things like the arts. I believe that governments' priorities need to be with things like infrastructure, uploading law and order, including maintaining the police and military, medicare, public education, and ensuring the smooth running of the country. Once those basic requirements are tended to, then the government can look towards supporting "extras" such as the arts.

Right now, we're still in a global recession. Even though Canada has been withstanding the storm better than any other country, with some provinces completely untouched by the tumult, we still need to be vigilant to ensure things don't tank. Especially with what's going on in the US, since our economies are to closely integrated.

So to me, this is the time for governments to prioritize what needs to be taken care of, and the arts don't fall into that. As harsh as it might sound, these are the sorts of things governments need to cut back on; it is not the government's responsibility to promote and fund the arts. If people really feel passionately about it, this is the time for the private sector to step in.

Personally, I think a lot of the pain they're feeling is self inflicted. We live within walking distance of several stage theatre companies, music halls, and art galleries, yet the only events we've been able to take in are the free promotions. Why? Because as much as we'd like to support the arts and go to these shows, we can't afford the tickets. We could afford one, maybe two, in the cheap seats, but there's four of us and there's just no way we can justifiably squeeze that out of our budget. If I have to choose between buying art supplies for my daughter and buying a ticket to a symphony, my daughter's art supplies will win every time.

Oh, yeah. My daughter is an artist. A very good one, too, and constantly pushing herself to be better. She plans on making her art her career, and she's adamant that she will do this without any sort of grants or handouts from the government. Personally, I think she's fully capable of accomplishing that.

So as much as I empathize with my friends who are upset about the funding cuts, I can't completely agree with them, since I don't consider arts funding a priority for government resources. If people want the arts supported, more of them need to put their money where their mouth is, and if they can't afford it, then find some other way to do it. Even in rough economic times, there are wealthy people who can and do support the arts, as do businesses. I think, in many ways, people forget that the arts are, in fact, a commercial enterprise. If one cannot support themselves and their art without government grants and subsidies, perhaps they're not as good as they think they are. Lord knows there are some incredibly horrible things passing as "art" our tax dollars are supporting that I really wish they weren't.

On the other hand, the same people that are cutting arts funding are giving themselves raises, bonuses and perks.

Sorry, Dude, but if your in government during a recession and believe that arts funding cannot be afforded, then neither can your pay raise be afforded.

I'm not against funding for the arts at all - I think it's great if governments, at all levels, can support the arts. It helps add to the vibrancy of the community and can be a valuable hand up to budding artists. At the same time, I think government funding of arts shouldn't be a priority, and that too many arts organizations use that funding as a crutch - not to mention too many crappy artists who's tripe should never see the light of day are basically living off our tax dollars.

Which leaves me wondering. Which side of the issue am I on?

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