October 20th, 2020

Support for arts is essential


By Submitted Article on January 10, 2020.

Submitted by the Allied Arts Council

A meme has been circulating social media over the past few years which contains an image of Winston Churchill and the following quote: “When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding to support the war effort, he replied: Then what are we fighting for?”

A quick Google search confirms this is somewhat inaccurate. To be precise, Churchill had stated in 1938, before Britain was engaged in the Second World War, “The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage themÉ Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

For centuries, artists and arts organizations have been supported financially by patrons, including monarchies, all levels of government, foundations and corporations. This funding model is successful to varying degrees; many members of the G20 have committed to supporting the arts at a national level. Typically, Canada has been much lower in its funding per capita to support the arts, with the United States ranking lower than us.

Studies have been published illustrating the virtues of arts and culture in communities, and the benefits associated with having a vibrant scene. The arts contribute positively to urban renewal and revitalization, building community identity and pride, increasing the quality of life and sense of place, and imparting positive change in communities. Artists and arts organizations continue to contribute to the well-being of communities, yet we are beginning to see support waiver from those who were once stalwart champions.

The argument that arts and culture should be completely self-sufficient or sustainable without the support of government is a political concept and an inaccurate view of the arts sector. To be sustainable, by definition, is to use resources at a rate at which they can be replenished quickly. These resources include talented people to carry out artistic, production and administrative work. Resources also include the audience and critics to give the work attention. Ultimately, money is required to make all of this happen, but money is a scarce resource. Earned revenue (ticket sales and sponsorships) covers approximately 50-80 per cent of the costs associated with a performing arts production, and many public galleries do not earn revenue as they offer free attendance, ensuring accessibility to all the community. If we want arts in our community and all the benefts that it brings, the shortfall needs to be shored up.

Currently, all levels of government support sectors that add to the quality of life and contribute to the well-being of its citizens. These sectors are not sustainable without the support of public funds. There is no charge to visit parks, fire and police do not send you an invoice if you need to use their services, and leisure facilities are subsidized to ensure affordability.

If we are willing to support some sectors with public funds, we must be ready to fund others. Arts and culture are as much a priority as other public services. Publicly supporting the arts, as Churchill stated in 1938, is essential to any complete life.

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IMO

The arts are necessary. They retain our collective memory, celebrate our present reality and imagine our future.