Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sports and Arts

During the Olympics, the Canadian federal government quietly made cuts to various arts programs. The two programs designed to assist artists in promoting their work internationally, PromArt out of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (FAITC), and Trade Routes out of the Department of Heritage, were eliminated. Also eliminated were The Stabilization Project and Capacity Building program, which provides financial and administrative support to art groups, and a new media research program. The government also stopped contributions to three valuable programs: Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, and the National Training Program (Film and Video).

In total, the cuts added up to $44.5 million dollars. At the end of the Olympics, the government announced $55 million in funding for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. So it seems pretty self-evident where that money went.

What's so frustrating about this is that there is no reason that sports and arts should be pitted against each other. They serve the same function in society - to improve the participation of the community, thus increasing the quality of life. At the elite/professional level, both are driven by a desire for excellence. Both feel the pressure of being underfunded so that they are forced to do something else to make money rather than devote themselves completely to their discipline. And both see themselves disparaged by a group of people who see what they do as a "frill" not deserving of support and themselves as a drain on society.

Other societies don't see this in opposition. China devoted a lot of money not just to their athletes but their artists. Australia, internationally known as a sports-mad country still has their international trade offices sell cultural products alongside wine, food, consumer goods, education, industrial products, mining, and technology. New Zealand chose culture as one of the industries to focus their economy on.

So why is our government doing this? Sadly, I believe it's because artists threaten their worldview of a homogeneous society subscribing to their values. There's no place for diversity of viewpoints, since that could expose the shaky foundations some of those values are built upon. This must not happen.

Please write your MP and the department of Heritage (who are doing consultations next week), telling them that you want both arts and sports to be properly funded. It is the artists and the athletes that are the true ambassadors of our country abroad and they need to be supported in their endeavors.

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