It continually amazes me how much money and energy goes into recreational sports and how little goes into arts and culture.
Take for example the recently Renewed GNWT Arts Strategy. It projects another decade of mediocrity and very little money spent on the arts. It sounds very similar to the last 30 years and likely will see the Northwest Territories Arts Community continuing to flounder.
Recreational sports on the other hand over the last three decades have seen the benefits of exclusive lottery funding, two new hockey rinks, one curling rink, one gymnastics centre, a large soccer Fieldhouse and one or two potential aquatic centres in Yellowknife. This list of course doesn’t include all the other communities in the Northwest Territories that have also received funding for sports.
The total expenditure for Yellowknife alone, at a guesstimate, is somewhere in the vicinity of $500 million. On top of that add $68 million for a new aquatic centre (before cost overruns. Remember the $55 million Bridge became a $200 million bridge?) and the Aqua Centre will probably also require an upgraded water supply for the city at another unknown cost.
Inversely, the City and the GNWT have spent next to nothing on the Arts. The interesting thing about the Arts is that it has the potential of supporting a broad spectrum of society in innumerable and meaningful ways in spite of the fact that our governments provide per capita less than most other jurisdictions in Canada. One case in point is the recent testimonial by Casey Koysan in his CBC interview.
Did I miss something here?
In the last 30 years, as much as I support and appreciate the value of sports, I can think of very few amateur athletes that graduate to a professional athletic career that came out of the Northwest Territories or even Northern Canada. Perhaps two hockey players, one speed-skater and a small number of others. I remember more artists and art coming out of the North Slave Correctional Centre than athletes coming out of all the sports centres in the North put together. In fact, if you compare money spent on the arts, sports, and corrections, you will find the least amount provided to the arts. There are large amounts going to sports and huge amounts going to the justice system where an unfortunate number of northerners are doing time learning new skills! Do we need to rethink where to put our priorities?
An Aqua Centre in YK will be good for a few thousand people based in Yellowknife. Building the NWT Centre for the Arts will be a resource for all of the NWT and Canada – young, old, athletes, artists, tourists and regular folks.
Mental and physical health benefits are immeasurable from participating in the arts. I have been delivering art workshops for over 25 years and see this every day during glass-making arts activities at Old Town Glassworks. Nurses, teachers, doctors, parents, tourists from around the world and others both young and old enjoy art as a creative, stress-reducing, and revitalizing activity.
If we spent $100 million creating the NWT Centre for the Arts right in downtown Yellowknife, we would have ourselves a whole new healing and creative industry. This would be our NWT version of the Banff School of Arts, the Yukon Arts Centre, or Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – a Northern arts resource hub that people from the communities and Yellowknife could draw from. This would be a centre that would empower the entire Northwest Territories to embrace the healing power of arts and culture. How many of those people do we see in downtown Yellowknife who might have artistic and other skills that are underdeveloped and unfocused? Perhaps, the abandoned downtown Mall could be turned into the new NWT Centre for the Arts?
What do other readers think?
president, YK Artists Co-operative LTD,
Old Town Glassworks, Old Town Bikeworks
past president, YK Rate Payer’s Association, YK City Market, Music NWT, ARCC