Friday, July 09, 2004

Talkin' 'bout the Canada Council


Nice dovetailing of things. Last night I came across Jim Munroe's op-ed piece in Toronto's Eye Magazine. This happened just after I received an email from Suzanne Tousingnant:

-----Original Message-----
From: Tousignant, Suzanne [mailto:suzanne.tousignant@canadacouncil.ca]
Sent: Tuesday June 29, 2004 4.24 >
To: Undisclosed Recipient@TheCanadaCouncil
Subject: Visual arts consultations - Canada Council for the Arts/
Consultation avec les artistes en arts visuels - Conseil des Arts du

Le français suit l'anglais

Please give us your input!

Visual artists and other professionals active in the field are invited to
take part in an important consultation regarding our support to visual

The background on the consultation process along with questions for the
visual arts community have been posted on our web site.

To participate, please visit our web site at

Donnez-nous vos commentaires!

Nous invitons les artistes en arts visuels et les autres professionnels de
ce domaine à participer à une importante consultation portant sur notre
appui aux artistes en arts visuels.

Le contexte du processus de consultation ainsi que des questions à
l'intention de la communauté artistique sont affichés sur notre site Web.

Pour participer, consulter le site du Conseil des arts du Canada au
Which then lead me to this. The Canada Council for the Arts - National Consultations with the Visual Arts Community - Facilitator's Reports. Monika Kin Gagnon's 1,370 word report on what some artists here in Montreal thought about the Canada Council.

How's that for a nice long introduction? Basically, Mr. Munroe thinks that the Canada Council is a good thing, and should continue. As Ms. Gagnon was basically reporting on what the people at her discussion said, she doesn't really come to any specific conclusions, and like any good bureaucrat leaves lots of open ended questions. Some examples of them are:

+ The paradoxical question at the heart of these consultations that was particularly vexing at this meeting, was how the Grants to Individual Artists Program could remain untouched with restructuring and addition of programs, without any increased budgets.

+ One might also recognize several markets and an already-existing ecology of environments including promotion and marketing, "we must mobilize ourselves as a community in relation to economic realities."

+ This could take a variety of different forms: international curators should be supported to visit Canada; international promotion of Canadian artists internationally should be more aggressive.
Somebody, somewhere at 350 Albert Street is obviously going to have to choose between some tough options. I haven't gotten around to reading the "Facilitator's" Reports on the meetings that happened in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton, Ottawa, Québec, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, or Winnipeg (what? No love for either Saint John or Saint Johns? What there's no art in Whitehorse?)

But, to get to the meat of the matter, my beef with the Canada Council is that they don't strike me as having any focus. They seem to me (from my limited knowledge) to be trying to do too much for too many, which just makes the wheels of bureaucracy spin round and round without going anyplace.

As I've told some friends, I'd like to see the Canada Council focus in real tight on what they want. Some possibilities that I've thought of are:

Hey, lets get us a Canadian Richter.
Hey! lets improve the secondary market (auctions for you regular folk) for all Contemporary Canadian Art.
Hey - Most Contemporary Canadian Artists are fair to middling, let's improve Arts Education so that the next generation is freakin' kick-ass!

And my most radical idea is to make artists think about becoming self-sufficient. Or in other words, "yeah we'll fund you for three years, but during that time you have to figure out how to get other people to pay you for what you're doing, 'cuz we're stopping the checks then."

I'm certain if I spent some more time on the matter I'd be able to come up with a bunch more things that the Canada Council could focus in on. My reason for wanting them to focus, is it then becomes possible to gauge how well the things are doing.

If they wanted to "create" a Canadian Richter, then all Canadians could thump their chests with pride as they told friends "hey! We have the best contemporary Artist in the world!" If the improved the secondary market then all the world could look on in amazement as prices for Canadian Art went skyrocketing, which would translate into much more awareness of Canadian Art. The stuff about education should be self-explanatory.

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