A growing body of literature suggests arts and culture are vehicles of creative expression and a primary mechanism for people and communities to develop a sense of identity and to foster community health and economic growth.
Despite this, culture has been relegated to secondary importance by governments and the public not interested in art in many jurisdictions in Canada.
But research shows art and culture is a growth industry in itself and generates social benefits with positive spill-overs beyond the economics of artists and their products and services into primary economic benefits dispersed in other sectors, such as tourism and educational institutions.
A realistic assessment of the value of culture should lead to informed government policy to capture the benefits of a thriving arts and cultural sector. Cultural policy at all levels of government is much more than funding allocations in response to individual and organization lobbying efforts. A well-defined cultural framework of goals, objectives and priorities are essential elements of communities.
People choose where to live and do business for a variety of reasons, including economic opportunity. However, local amenities, or quality of life, are determinants of location as people vote with their feet according to their preferences and opportunities. Cultural policy has a history of being relegated to secondary importance and supported in an ad hoc way by governments. Referendum questions can be flawed or voted upon by an ill-informed electorate.
There is a substantiated link between cultural activity and economic development. In the past 50 years of my involvement in the culture and art sector of every community in which I have lived — most recently in Kamloops — I have strived to articulate with an informed opinion why I support art and culture in a community.
I agree my writings are opinions, but they are informed ones.
Past and present civilizations are known to historians not so much by their bank accounts, but by their culture. The arts are not a superfluous endeavour outside the mainstream and only for a small number of elite. Creativity permeates everything human. One only has to examine weekly local events to know how culturally vibrant Kamloops is and wants to be, not just as a major player in our economy with high financial returns, but as a serious contribution to our health and happiness and a participant in our future.
Kamloops wants to be culturally vibrant, not as a playground for indulgent artists, but as a labour-intensive, efficient industry with a proven and increasing market and as part of a cultural ideal that honours research readily available affirming the benefit of art and culture to a community of which financial is only one consideration.
Finally, taxpayer dollars are highly budgeted for sport and recreation operations and capital expenditures. Why should cultural equality and equity be different?
Wendy Weseen lives and writes in Kamloops
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