WESEEN – Arts and culture essential catalysts for community health

Annual Art in the Park is one of many local art events.

Guest Columnist

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.

Wendy Weseen.

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 for communities.

Individuals choose their location of residence and/or 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 with only their own a preference and tastes.

A Man Full of Words, mixed media by Wendy Weseen.

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 I have lived in, and most recently in Kamloops, I have strived to articulate with an informed opinion why I support art and culture in a community.  As one commentator on a recent posted contribution to this dialogue, I agree my post is an opinion but it is an informed one.

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. Not as a playground for indulgent artists but 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 is a Kamloops artist.

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6 Comments on WESEEN – Arts and culture essential catalysts for community health

  1. Wendy Weseen // October 13, 2018 at 8:48 AM // Reply

    Thank you for your comments. There are lots of people who agree but are not necessarily versed in the research around this issue. And both you and I have seen a lot of this world and howvother countries support the art and culture of their communities. We can never go back to thinking in a narrow way.

  2. Dawne Taylor // October 12, 2018 at 4:55 PM // Reply

    Bravo Wendy. I agree wholeheartedly. Not all Kamloopsians are sports or fitness fanatics, yet the city seems to favour this kind of facility and expenditure for same. That is especially true as demographics change and the population ages. If Vernon, a city less than 1/2 the size of Kamloops, can have a vibrant arts and culture scene centered around a state of the art Performing Arts Centre, then surely Kamloops can do likewise.

  3. A PAC will do little, in my opinion, to foster “artistic creativity” for the benefit of the community. In a way I do agree though we should have another (hopefully) beautiful public building but then I think about our collective carbon footprint…then I become reluctant to the idea.
    But I agree on the sentiment regarding tax dollars spent on sprawling sporting facilities of little use, like the Tournament Capital ranch in Rayleigh. But let’s invest in a better cycling path network where sport and commuting can be combined for the wholesome benefit (direct and indirect) of many.

    • Wendy Weseen // October 12, 2018 at 7:33 PM // Reply

      Pierre, I did not mention PAC in my column which was a more general expression of a substantiation for nurturing the arts/culture in Kamloops however that might play out. Who knows about the PAC. I was definitely a supporter but I’m open to the idea of culture taking more than second place to sports and recreation but to be put on an equal footing because it is equally worthy and vital and for it to be grounded in an overall plan and policy by the city. It is the arts turn.

  4. Ian M MacKenzie // October 12, 2018 at 6:30 AM // Reply

    In answer to your final question, Wendy, whether we like it or not Kamloops is more like Sparta than it is like Athens, and you know who won that war!

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