Last week I mused about the Muses and the recent musing at city hall. This week I thought I would do a little musing about the arts in our fair city.
Yellowknife like most places in Canada takes in money through taxes, fees, parking meters and transfers of money from the Federal and Territorial coffers. This money they allocate to running the city. A lot goes to roads, sewers and running the various city facilities. What’s left over, gets doled out to various projects, groups and programs.
If you were to take a closer look at what monies the city spends on the arts and artists, I am sure you would find it is not very much. This seems to be a Canadian thing. Most places just don’t value art or support it very much. This is unfortunate because art can do a lot for a city and its inhabitants. Art gives people an outlet to express themselves. It also gives people a sense of purpose, place and accomplishment. It exercises the mind and can teach you a lot about your locale, humanity, the world and the environment. Sounds like a win, win, win.
Yet despite all the benefits of art, all too often it gets overlooked or ignored. If you don’t believe me, think about this. If your city council was debating that they could spend $20,000 on an art installation or $40 million on a sports event or facility, how many people would be pushing for art versus those pushing for sports.
Yellowknife is the capital city, but where is the city’s public art gallery? A place where residents and tourists could go to see the art history of the territory and where they could see some of its local artists, displaying their art. Where is the Yellowknife community museum? Where is Yellowknife’s art center where artists can paint, teach or take classes. Where is a place where musicians can practice and even perform? Where is the place where writers and poets can meet and exchange ideas? In short if a tourist asked, ‘Does the City Yellowknife have a facility for the arts?’ The answer would be no.
Even in my wildest fantasies, I can’t visualize the city suddenly seeing the light, becoming artified and then deciding to build a mega multimillion-dollar Arts Centre. The Muses may have invaded city hall but they haven’t taken over yet.
However, there are a number of smaller steps the city could take to support and encourage the arts. It could support groups that are already working on or doing these things in town. Things like a public art gallery could be incorporated into a new or existing city facility in a small way and when they plan new facilities art considerations should be included.
Every year Northwestel buys the reproduction rights to a painting and uses it on its phone book cover. The city puts out several publications and countless reports each year. How many painting or reproduction rights does the city purchase in a year? How many does the GNWT or federal government purchase and use? That type if thing is something the city could do. They could also display local art in a number of different ways.
Also, the city could set up an art fund. Every year they would put a set amount of money in it. This fund would be available for public art projects. It doesn’t have to be spent and can accumulate until something comes along that city council agrees on. From experience I can tell you that outdoor displays, big murals or sculptures can take a lot of time, effort and money to complete. So, if the city wants them, this is one way to save up the money to get them over time. After all, you build up an art inventory or collection one piece at a time.
Ponder this. Art can tell stories, inspire people and give them a sense of identity and place. If you take art out of the Earth, you are left with eh. Art eh! what could be more Canadian then that. Let’s promote art and make the earth whole again. After all art can heal.