02 August 2007

Culture in Podunkville?

Calgary arts funding behind other cities: report
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | 1:20 PM MT
CBC News
The City of Calgary puts less money into the arts per capita than four other major cities in Canada, according to a new report by the Calgary Arts Development Agency.

Calgary put $2.4 million or $2.56 per capita into the arts in 2005, but thanks to a recent funding hike, the amount now sits at just over $3.

Still it's less per capita funding than four other Canadian cities.

Edmonton spent $3.88 per capita, Vancouver spent $4.01, Winnipeg spent $5.20, and Toronto spent $6.42 in 2005.

The numbers in the report are shocking, but will draw attention to the problem and ensure that the city contributes more in the future, said Karen Ball, director of community investment with the two-year-old agency.

Dean Bareham, artistic director at Calgary's Green Fools Theatre, said he's not surprised by the report. The best way to make money is to leave Calgary, he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of our work is forcing us to travel, forcing us to go to other places because we're appreciated more other places than we are here."

Bareham said he is facing a huge rent increase and is among the artists considering moving.

"You can get cheaper space in Vancouver than you can get in Calgary now. It's crazy."

This is hardly surprising. I've lamented the lack of cultural development in Calgary for a decade. This is a town to work hard in to make lots of money -- who the hell has the time to enjoy the civic experience, the intangibles? There's far too much to buy at the mall - why spend time appreciating an art gallery, or a dance troupe performance, or a independent theatre's stageplay?

This is a problem with a boom/bust economy town like Calgary. Everyone's either too busy in the boomtimes or too poor in the bust times to directly contribute to cultural and artistic development. Currently everyone's too busy making money to actually participate in the artscene other than to throw money at it. I honestly think there is just not a big interest in creating a unique cultural experience here. Everyone appears to simply be happy with the monochromatic Western label and the Stampede and mountain resorts to be our calling card. The simple lack of the availability of edgy or modernist art sources as well as the rabid feverishness over the local sports teams here are proof enough of Calgarians' lack of culture. The desire to conform here is extremely high, and I think that's where the lack of interest in a desire for something unique or 'artistic' comes from.

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