The Project

Art is your story:  taking stories to the streets

DATES: October 5-14:
Kingston:  Thursday, October 9, around town.
Tuesday October 14, Queen’s campus

In response to the characterization of arts as only of interest to an elite group and not relevant to ‘ordinary’ Canadians, we want to demonstrate the prevalence and importance of arts in all our lives.

To highlight our belief that everyone is bound together by arts and by the stories that artists tell, we propose to take our stories into the streets. Between now and October 14, students, faculty and staff of the Queen’s University Drama department will be telling stories in public places. Working in pairs, we will locate ourselves around Kingston to read poems, read short stories, sing songs, play music, read from childrens’ picture books, talk about the Canadian documentary or film you loved, perform monologues, do puppetry…every kind of storytelling through art. Each performance will also have a sign or flyers explaining why we think that arts are an integral part of the life of every Canadian.

We are inviting anyone who loves the arts to participate, ANYWHERE IN CANADA, in groups, in pairs, any way at all. It is as easy as:

1. You and a friend/daughter/son/colleague go to a streetcorner, park, mall in your community.
2. One of you reads, sings, dances, plays the fiddle…
3. The other holds a poster that says: “art is your story”, and also (if you like) has the web site with lots of good information about the arts in Canada: http://www.artsisyourstory.wordpress.com
4. You go home.
5. You send a photo and/or description of what you did to the web site or the facebook site (link is on our wordpress site).

That is it! In Kingston we have a large event planned for October 5 and other dates in place. Join us at the same time or do this whenever suits you. It can be as small or large as you like.

And, please, ask your candidates about their arts and culture policy.

Any day can work, if you want us to post your event, we will!

Kingston days for this event:
1. Everyone who can come, Sunday October 5, 10am , meeting at Market Square, then all over Kingston until 2pm.
2. Anytime, anyone, Tuesday and Thursday October 7 and 9, all over Kingston.
3. Queen’s campus, Tuesday October 14, election day.

We invite local groups across the country, Queen’s alumni, individuals, other departments at other universities to join us in this project.

Please spread the stories, pass this around!

For information contact:
Julie Salverson jsalverson1@sympatico.ca (613)533-6000 x77485
Jenn Stephenson jenn.stephenson@queensu.ca (613)533-6000 x78597

 

34 Responses to The Project

  1. Sean says:

    I think that you have to read the whole aticle. He states that he does not want to put ingovernment funding when the gala is being held in some swanky place. And he is saying that ordinary Canadians agree. And I do, i am a person who is heavily into the arts. I love drama, poetry and paints, but i do think that the gala’s can be held at a cheaper hall, and that the government can be spending money on more useful things, such as more important things in our country. I would agree with you if the gala was not hedl at an overpriced hall, but that is not the case. Maybe the way Harper presented, or said this maner was a little bit harsh and i can see that, but i still stand by him.

  2. Victoria says:

    For every dollar put into the arts by the government $11 is returned.
    I’d say that’s a pretty sound investment. (3.8% of the GDP in 2007 that was brought in by the arts–that’s $46 BILLION )

    And as a response to the above comment, I’ve been to a number of gala’s that were held right in the gallery. For the average artist there is no swanky gala.
    I would hazard a guess that any show that has a large gala being held at a swanky place is going to be quite a large show with a well known artist/group of artists, generally at a public gallery where admission is charged. This will bring people to the gallery and possibly even make money.

    This really is a great idea, an interesting way to make people aware of what is going on in the arts in relation to the election.

    Here is an interesting link to an article written by Margaret Atwood on this the topic of Harper and arts funding:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080924.wcoarts25/EmailBNStory/politics/home

  3. Becky says:

    I was wondering if you realize that only a small proportion of Arts Companies do hold galas. As well, these galas that are held are used to gain more funding from supporters.

    In essence it is a fundraising event because it is expensive to put on a show, and for the most part there isn’t enough money coming in to fully cover these expenses.

    Also, I would highly doubt that any government money is used for these events, because it is probably already spent on infrastructure, lighting equipment, sets, costumes, salaries…..

  4. Jessica Barkley says:

    How the hell can Mr. Harper speak for “ordinary” canadians?

    This matter is HUGE.

    If the country starts advertising lack of importance that art has in our country, then it will just go down from there. Art will start becoming a lesser priority in our provinces and then our cities.

    Its really too bad we couldn’t have a National “Art Is Your Story” day in Ottawa, maybe the National Art Gallery would get involved.

    I think Mr. Harper should look over the charter of rights and freedoms again, because you cant take a voice away from someone who is quite capable of communicating on their own.

    I wonder what his wife and kids think of this.

    Anyhow Rock On with ART IS YOUR STORY!
    You’ve got my support 100%!!!!

  5. Rob says:

    Art is Culture. Art is attributed to everyone’s story, past and present. But more importantly, art will determine our cultural future. It is what bonds us as a nation. For Mr. Harper to say that art is not for “ordinary” Canadians is utterly ridiculous. From one perspective I can understand how gala events are looked down upon, due to their high brow nature. Perhaps they are a tad extreme, HOWEVER, to cut the arts funding as much as Harper is proposing proves no logical means to an end. Universities, Museums, Art Galleries, Movies, Television, and Literature are all part of the arts which receive funding from the government. It is not only the Gala events which are receiving the funding. If Mr. Harper believes so he should look into his books before opening his mouth. Who wants to see an end to this? How many “ordinary” Canadians will be furious with the declination of their culture as a whole? I ask every Canadian to stand up for their culture! It is of extreme importance that our culture is intact for future generations of artists.

  6. Devon Murphy says:

    The arts in any country create a sense of culture, a sense of identity, and as Canadians we have always struggled with a lack of true identity and characterization. What does it mean to be Canadian? What voices represent our country and what voices arent being heard? This search is ongoing.

    By stifling the Arts, Steve Harper (indeed an ordinary person with an extraordinary amount of power) has decided that we have come far enough.
    Not only does the arts create jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, it provides an outlet and space for creative and free thought, something which Steve doesn’t seem to value.

    Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, these are jobs that Canadians work at,
    Liberal, Conservative, NDP, these are parties that Canadians vote for,
    Dance, drawing, theatre, reading, listening, creating, ARTS, this is what Canadians do and what Canadians are.

    To take that away from us, is to leave us the bare minimum and in the country of opportunity, that sure doesn’t sound fair.

  7. Evangelia says:

    Stephen Harper wants to cut funding for the arts, stating that “ordinary people” don’t give a damn about the arts. News flash, I am an ordinary person, and the arts is one of the biggest parts of my everyday, “ordinary” life.

    I find it funny that Harper tries to claim that he can relate to living an “ordinary” life, as Prime Minister of the country. He says that it’s rich people who go to these galas, and us “ordinary” folks sit back and watch with envy on our TV’s at home. Well, Harper is right along side of these people at the galas, so it doesn’t seem to me like he knows about being “ordinary”, according to his standards.

    Regardless of what Harper says, the arts, in some way or another, affects each and every individual on a daily basis. I can’t imagine a world without it, and I feel like a Canada without it just wouldn’t be the Canada we all know and love.

  8. Jess says:

    Having had the opportunity to live aboard has taught me a number of things. Being born a Canadian citizen, I have always valued living in this country with so many benefits that are relatively universal; one of these benefits is the access to art. I have considered myself to be an artist from the moment I understood what the word meant. I would argue that the same is true for the majority of the people I know.
    Margaret Atwood’s response in The Globe and Mail to Mr. Harper’s comments, struck a cord with me. I understand the importance of issues such as youth justice and taxation however, I think Harper fails to realize the all encompassing nature of art. Just as Atwood stated, ordinary Canadians are artists. Yes, they may be doctors, businessmen, teachers, custodial staff, carpenters, plumbers…but the fact of the matter is that for every one of those people who come from a varying background and culture, I will bet that art has had an impact on their lives. Just because we cannot see it, or these people do not classify themselves as an ‘artist’ DOES NOT mean that they cannot relate to the arts.
    It upsets me that our Prime Minister who is running for re-election is so disconnected from the people that he is representing. Whether you are an self-proclaimed artist or simply like to read a good book or put a child’s artwork on their fridge or watch a good movie…everyone – ordinary or not connects with artistic expression.

    I cannot even imagine living in a country where the arts are not supported, where there is a possibility of my kids not being able to dance or pottery or acting classes.

    I hope that people may an informed vote on October 14th. Please email or phone your local candidates and find out what their arts policy is. Can’t wait to see everyone out on Sunday!

  9. Merritt says:

    I think the problem with Harper’s statement, whatever the aim of it was, are the assumptions he’s making about “ordinary working people”. He gives no facts, no statistical data, no percentages of the population that watch tv, that go to the theatre, that go to and volunteer at museums and galeries as Margaret Atwood said in her article. He assumes that all Canadians come home, turn on the tv, and get pissed off at rich artisits.

    First of all, other than galas like the Oscars and Grammy’s and the like, I don’t know what galas he’s talking about. Secondly, if these supposed galas are on tv, presumable others ARE interested in watching them or else I’m pretty sure networks wouldn’t be carrying them. Third, and most importantly, do not presume to know what others do and what others think. Don’t artists, in fact, fall under this category of “ordinary working people”? Or are we exempt from that?

    But for a moment, let’s say that Harper’s comment has same validity to it. That these galas are, as Margaret Atwood paraphrased, “a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants”. What’s wrong with complaining about the need for more grants? More funding for the arts is a bad thing now? As Harper puts it these “rich people” are “claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up”. So what you’re saying is, you’ve given a raise, now keep quiet?

    Now THAT is what doesn’t resonate with this ordinary person.

  10. Rachel says:

    Art is very broad and includes so many things and engulfs so much of our life. Not very many Canadians could go through a day without being affected by the arts in some way. Whether it is through turning on the t.v., or reading a book, or looking at a painting, or seeing at different buildings, structures etc. That being said how could anyone suggest that it would be a good thing to decrease funding for the arts. I can understand how people think that things like health care (which is continually getting cuts), and school funding (also getting cuts – look how many schools have shut down) need more funding. BUT if you think that cutting costs from the arts is going to go directly to these other “more important” things then you are seriously delusional. Look at the proof, the government is corrupted and if anything should be cut it should be their pay. What the hell are we paying them so much money for? To decide that more funding should be cut from the arts? Great… good job, two thumbs up to our corrupted, prosperous, dim-witted government!

  11. Charline says:

    I find it very interesting that Harper dicided to critice the artist for having large gala’s when we frequently hear in the news about politicians using tax payers money for their own leisure activities.

    If we want to join into this idea of “ordinary people.” I’d say the “ordinary person” doesn’t enjoy seeing these politicians using “ordinary people’s” money.

    Art is of value and people are able to find their identity through it. Perhaps Canada would find a stronger identity if more funding was put into the arts. It’s a hefty topic that is difficult to solve. This is one issue in a crazy number. I feel like we’re trying to vote for the lesser evil and not the best party.

  12. Geoff says:

    It is disillusioning as a young Canadian to be faced with the task of making a selection in the upcoming election. I cannot support a specific political party, because no party supports me. I am fortunate in that I have a candidate with whom I can place some faith, and therefore I have found where I will place my vote.

    With regards to the Arts cuts, I must remind all voters that it is not unanimous within the Conservative party, rather just an aspect of Mr. Harper’s election platform. Although I cannot support his view of the Arts, he does have other positive aspects of his campaign, as all candidates have positive aspects to their campaign.

    I urge young Canadians to pursue their rights to vote, but also remember that your commitment does not end there. Become involved in your community; volunteer; speak out if you feel your voice needs to be heard.

    It is not simply at election time that we should become active in the political process. Perhaps if we continue to show support for the Arts we can continue to maintain their involvement in our lives. I know I couldn’t live without the Arts, and so I will fight to preserve them. Will you?

  13. Jenny says:

    I think Mr Harper displayed a vast ignorance of the concept of art, and its importance to society. Being creative and engaging with other creative works is a completely natural instinct, as can be demonstrated by the drive of young children to ‘create’ – whether it be by painting, singing, dancing, even building houses out of toy bricks.

    I don’t think this drive for creativity is something that we outgrow as we grow into ‘ordinary’ adults – but if it is discouraged in this way, and we are not given oppurtunities to be artistic, then it will be suppressed and we will miss out of a whole extra part of being human. A part, I should add, that is not distinct from the rest of our lives – we learn and grow through artistic experiences all around us everyday – these artistic experiences have nothing to do with swanky galas.

    I think this project is a brilliant way of displaying the relevance and importance of the arts to the attention of those that have the power to encourage them, or to demean them.

  14. Alex says:

    When I read ignorant comments like the one Stephen Harper made to millions of Canadians, I am filled with sadness. For someone to be so removed from a basic definition of art as our Prime minister is, is quite simply ridiculous. Did nobody inform him that art is everywhere? Art is in our everyday lives, just waiting to be recognized. I make a point to surround myself with different and unique forms of art as frequent as possible through music, films, poetry, and I do not go to ‘rich galas’ to do so. Because of this, I am considered neither an ‘ordinary person’ nor an art supporter by Stephen Harper’s standards. So what am I then Mr. Prime Minister? I will tell you what I am. I am a Canadian who’s entire life has been shaped by art because I have made a conscious effort to surround myself in it. Without art in our society, we would all suffer from a lack of diversity and cultural influence. Simply because you don’t understand the impact of art Mr. Harper, does not mean the rest of the country doesn’t. Please do not punish the millions of citizens who use art like air because of your ignorance.

  15. Pauline says:

    To disregard the impact of the arts in the run up to an election I think is a huge oversight not least due to the obvious statistics which suggest that in fact ‘ordinary’ Canadians come out in their droves to support the industry. ($46 Billion, 3.8% of the GDP)

    I am not from Canada and the main reason for me being here at the moment is due to the impact the country has in the arts sector. The quality of the work being produced by Canadians in the realm of Film and TV for instance is respected worldwide. It is Canadian workers behind some of the world’s biggest films now such as The Incredible Hulk (2008) or 300(2007)

    The musicians sing about it. The artists paint the landscape. The film and tv industry make the visuals happen. The theatre and writers can carry it throughout the world. Why would Stephen Harper want impede the process of showing the world who and what Canadians are. Maybe he has a bee in his bonnet because Mike Myers is more recognisable around the world than he is?!

  16. adamwray says:

    It would be easy (and, I’ll admit, somewhat satisfying) to paint Mr. Harper as a monster and aspiring despot who’s trying to muzzle our artistic communities by squeezing off their financial resources. Realistically, this probably isn’t the case. Rather, my gut tells me that these proposed cuts are the result of a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose and potential of the arts. It’s difficult to quantify the benefits that stem from a thriving artistic community. Shakespeare doesn’t build roads or low-income housing, nor is he easing the strain on our health care system. And yet, we are compelled to create, and through this creation, we come to know ourselves. We open lines of dialogue. We become engaged with our society. Something that was brought up in a Canadian Theatre History class this morning: the Inuit, despite living in some of the harshest, most desperate conditions have always created art. Why? I imagine because they, like those of us “ordinary people” who all ourselves artists, are compelled to.

    Hopefully, Art is Your Story can serve as an example of exactly why the arts are so necessary to a healthy society.

    – AW

  17. saffrondieroff says:

    The relationship between art and everyday life.

    Art is important to me because I think creativity is essential to humans. We study art, we look at, we engage it and we create it. Art is part of everyday life for Canadians because it is something that connects us as well it is something that defines us. Canadians take pride in their art as a culture and I think this reaction to arts cuts as well the assumptions made by the government that “ordinary Canadians” do not appreciate art is a legitimate cause for artists to unite for. Even if this art awareness does not achieve the goal of proposing for more funding at least we created an awareness that artists are here to stay and we will fight for our causes because it is important to our identity.
    Art in Canada is unique and this awareness will hopefully also stem a further interest by the public to take pride in it and seek to it out.
    Art is everywhere, if we look for it, and I don’t think arts cuts will destroy all art from happening, but it might make it more difficult for the Canadians to find it and experience it.

  18. Virginia says:

    Do ordinary people not lead “artistic” lives? I don’t think Stephen Harper has been talking to very many Canadians. Different avenues of artisitic expression have been the basis of my self-discovery throughout my life. I have learned an exceptional amount about myself from my exposure to books, theatre, music, photography, films, etc. I consider myself to be ordinary. I think that when a government takes away art funding and declares that “ordinary” people don’t do this, it says loud and clear that the arts are not worthy of support and nor are the extra-ordinary people who interact with those various mediums. The arts open the doors to self-discovery. Does Harper really want a society full of robots who go to work, get home, eat dinner, flick on the tv, and go to bed? What kind of nation would that be. The arts define who we are as Canadians… as ORDINARY Canadians. The arts allow us to explain how we interact with the world around us and how we preceive ourselves in that world. When it comes down to it… what is more important than knowing who we are and then leading our lives at jive with that understanding?

  19. Danielle says:

    As an ‘ordinary’ Canadian, I know very little about Canadian politics. While I disgaree with the cultural cuts that are going to happen if we choose to re-elect Mr. Harper, I can honestly say that I haven’t heard a politician yet take a serious stance towards building it up, or adding extra funding.
    What I like about your project, is its subtly. Instead of promoting a specific politician or political group you are simply promoting ARTS! If this project takes off, and becomes a natural insentive, and the country sees how many ‘ordinary Canadians’ are involved in and passionate about the arts we may actually see a sway in the vote without having to directly speak out about Harper
    Excellent work, Art is Your Story!

  20. tanis anne says:

    If you are getting a post secondary education at Queen’s University you are not necessarily ‘ordinary’. You are extremely privileged, and therefore, hate to say it, but part of an elite crowd yourself. This is something I struggle with everyday. I find that aspect of this project a little bit silly, but not so much that it doesn’t have wonderful potiential.

    Other than that little silly bit I think it is a wonderful tool to open up avenues of communication about what Canadians DO find important and DO value. Hopefully when students are out participating in this over the next two weeks they get to have conversations about this with other residents of Kingston. The most exciting thing to me is that students will actually be leaving the campus bubble and engaging in their greater community. Although students will be spreading a message that they value arts, hopefully they will be receptive to the other values people feel should be focused on by our government.

    On another note: One of the most powerful aspects of the Canadian constitution is the right to speak freely….or not to speak. Although I am comfortable with my opinion I am not as comfortable with the concept of a professor mandate requiring me to state my opinion publicly on a website. The rights and freedoms of being Canadian allow me choice.

  21. Robyn says:

    I’m just curious as to why we have to promote this movement as something against what a politician said, as opposed to simply promoting the arts in general.

    Could you not have simply started this website with “We want to demonstrate the prevalence and importance of arts in all our lives” … do we really need to hate on our Prime Minister and use him as an excuse for the creation of this movement? You give more strength to his comments by only demonstrating the arts now that they have been commented on, and further this by stating that this is the exact reason why this movement began.

    If you began by omitting the stab at Harper, the importance of “ART is Your Story” would be focused on exactly that- the ARTS, as it should be.

    Notice the comments above…not one is simply about how much someone loves the arts, or why art is such an important aspect of their lives. ALL the comments have politics involved.

    The movement is a great idea, but infusing political bias within it is distasteful and takes away from the movement as a whole.

  22. Alicia says:

    The statement by Mr. Harper is definitely going to have a great influence on both his supporters and non-supporters. By assuming that “ordinary Canadians” only know how to complain about the lack of grants, and continually decreasing the financial budget for arts in Canada, this is definitely not the way to gain positive reputation among the population.

    Theatres that were once well-established, like The Equity Showcase Theatre (Toronto), has been forced to close down just this summer due to lack of Operational Funding from the government. The Equity Showcase Theatre offered a variety of arts and performance training classes that nurtures our society and its youths. If programs like these are shut down, and art-related courses are to come to an end in public schools, our next generations will be limited in expressing their creativity and talents. Given the fact that Canada already suffers cultural
    distinctions from the US, is Canada doomed to follow the shadows of our neighbour?

  23. Ryan LaPlante says:

    In response to the entry posted by Geoff:

    He said: “With regards to the Arts cuts, I must remind all voters that it is not unanimous within the Conservative party, rather just an aspect of Mr. Harper’s election platform. Although I cannot support his view of the Arts, he does have other positive aspects of his campaign, as all candidates have positive aspects to their campaign.”

    In response to this, I must remind voters that arts cuts are not an element of the Conservative Party platform, as the Conservative Party does not have a platform. They have made no promises, and have shared no plans. Their campaign consists of few details and no guarantees. People ask why do politicians break their promises, yet how can we judge or even support a candidate who makes none? We can’t. Trying to inform yourself about the Tory Platform makes it even more clear that voting for Harper’s government is like voting blindfolded.

    For anyone who is uninformed of the parties platforms, visit their websites, or view the Elections 2008 section of this page.

    The Liberals have a platform that includes timelines, dollar amounts, and realistic ways to support each and every one of their goals. If you have a problem with what they want to do, so be it, but there can be no question what their goals are. The integrity of the Liberal Party of Canada is powerful, and Stephane Dion is a leader I would be proud to follow into the future.

  24. Geoff says:

    Ryan,

    Although I find your passion very inspiring, I must counteract your arguments here, based on their falsity.

    I am not necessarily a supporter of the Conservative Party, however they absolutely do have a platform. It is extremely naive of you to equate voting for the Conservatives to voting with a blindfold, as in Canada the election process is quite different from the United States. In Canada, unless you live in Mr. Harper’s home riding, you vote for a regional candidate, and not directly for the Prime Minister. Ergo not only does Mr. Harper have a national platform, but each candidate in each riding would have their own platform, and election goals as well. This applies not only to the Conservative Party, but to any of the Parties.

    I feel that the “Art is your Story” project is thoughtful and insightful, mostly because it does not engage in childish name calling, or diminishing of any of the political parties. Rather, it is about establishing our voice on a national stage, and disaplying the true possibilites the Arts can hold.

    Therefore I posted, and do here again, not to promote any individual party, but to encourage members of the Art community to stay involved. Voting for the Conservatives does not mean voting against the Arts, but like voting for the Liberals means voting for the Arts. But voting at all means that you want to have your voice heard, and continuing to run initiatives such as this one will ensure the sustainability of the Arts.

  25. Geoff says:

    Sorry, correction of a quick typo.

    In the final paragraph the sentence should read:

    “Voting for the Conservatives does not necessarily mean voting against the Arts, just like voting for the LIberals does not necessarily mean voting for the Arts”.

  26. darlingillusion says:

    Geoff,

    I have never resulted to name calling. Please visit the Conservative party website, or call their representatives. If you uncover a 2008 election platform, I would be happy to read it, and take in their goals. There is not one posted, there is not one on record, and you cannot search their website. I believe in the right of supporting any party, support who you will, however I do feel that voting for the Conservatives is similar to voting blindfolded. Show me a platform, and I will happily withdraw my comments. I have made statements based on national platforms which have been publically announced: the Conservatives do not have one.

    I do fully believe that voting for the Liberal Party is supporting the Arts. I encourage any and all people to view either my article breaking down their arts and culture platform, or to visit the Liberal website themselves. Visit the other parties as well, take in their information. This is tough with the Conservatives, as a platform is not listed, but I hope they will change this in the near future.

  27. ryguy4000 says:

    I apologize, I borrowed a friends computer to post the last statement. The views stated there are mine and not hers.

  28. Katie says:

    Art is extremely important because it’s an outlet for creativity, emotion, stress, what have you. Take that away and you will find yourself in a world of trouble!

    Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life.” – John Lubbock Sr.

  29. Craig Walker says:

    This morning, at the rally in Kingston which preceded the “Art is Your Story” blitz, there were two middle-aged men who were angered by the rather small, extremely mild and good-natured demonstration held by the fountain. They were both inarticulate in their objections, complaining bitterly that they were “offended” by the gathering, and they both declined to engage in further debate (and certainly not with me, another middle-aged male) and so walked away in angry huffs after separately hurling their complaints at a female photographer whom they incorrectly assumed to be the organizer, perhaps because she was a few years older than the students who were still gathered there.

    Now, the voices of those who spoke could only just be heard over the roar of the fountain, so it was clear that what these two men objected to was not a disturbance of the peace but of their own complacence. They wanted the gathering stopped not because it interfered with any other activity but because the sight of people gathered in a public square to collectively make a statement of concern which they did not share was inherently an affront to their comfort. Implicitly, what they want is a world in which they are not required to hear dissent, to accept differences or to scrutinize themselves. They vaguely invoked the threat of the police, which would be merely laughable were it not that it conveyed what is, at its base, a deeply fascist attitude towards society: the world must not merely BE but APPEAR to be wholesome; dissent must be silenced and conformity to the status quo—the pleasant bourgeois blandness of the usual antiques and vegetable stands, untainted by (as one man said, with furious disgust) “politics.”

    Well, all this goes to show exactly why the arts are so necessary and why they are so distrusted by some of those in power. The arts pose questions and doubts to those who believe they have all the answers; and they force alternative perspectives upon those who feel they have seen it all. They represent a salutary dose of disorder in our society which, understandably craving stability and comfort, by setting these so high a priority that pursuing them becomes a vice, is wont to settle into a morbid rigidity. Our society would be no more than an ossified hierarchy of privilege and intolerance were it not for the shifting perspectives and hard questioning and downright disorder represented by art. In Classical Athens, where democracy and drama came of age together, this point was understood—at least until those who were frightened by any public airing of doubt and dissent had their way, and democracy and drama were crushed simultaneously to be replaced by an intolerant bland oligarchy. Let’s not drift towards the same reckless failure of imagination. Let’s not be silenced by those who want no more than bland conformity.

  30. Craig Walker says:

    Whoops. I left off the end of the last sentence of my second paragraph:

    —should be enforced by physical coercion if necessary.

  31. Sarah says:

    I think that Harper’s attitude towards the arts was articulated in Thursday’s debate. When asked what the arts meant to him, he claimed affection because he “plays a little piano” and his son takes guitar lessons. I see. The arts aren’t lifeblood, careers, culture, debate, education, industry, truth, beauty, distortion, protest, experiment, intellect, absurdity, play, work, passion… No, the arts are hobbies.

    When industries and creative intellectual movements are trivialized in those terms, their worth is reduced from “crucial” to “distraction”.

    What Harper fails to recognize is that while he is fooling around on the piano, artists are expressing themselves, challenging their communities, making their rent, educating their audiences, supporting themselves, employing others, and contributing to our evolving Canadian culture.

    Harper seems to have just told the arts to cut its hair and get a real job. I hope that the arts tells Harper where to go on election day.

  32. Ian says:

    I would agree with Mr. Harper that ‘ordinary’ Canadians are about as interested in the arts as they are in as esoteric a pursuit as… oh, let’s say politics. Considering that less than 50% of our population votes in federal elections, maybe he should be reducing his OWN salary. I mean, it’s only a reasonable expectation for someone who is so in tune with “Joe 6-pack”.

    Also, if you’re a university student or graduate, stop describing yourself as an ‘ordinary Canadian’. You aren’t who he was talking about.

  33. Kirsteen says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful protest – I enjoyed the positive response to Harper’s absurd comments. I think it’s really important to be able to articulate and demonstrate the point that “art is your story.” Many people intuitively feel that the arts are important, but can’t explain why and how, especially in the face of “practicalities” like “money for more hospital beds, or arts funding?” When they see that healing the body and healing the soul, mind and heart are not mutually exclusive, that the arts are part of our humanity, it opens up a whole world.

  34. julieglad says:

    On election day, Pat Wilkinson celebrated our new book for younger readers, Looking for Snow Fleas, with a tail-gate book launch near the Amherstview polling station. We had signs out ‘Ordinary Canadians in the Arts’ for what it was worth.
    Cheers,
    Diane Dawber

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