Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Passion and perseverance: Rita Davies’ Cri de Couer

It’s nice to be catching up on The Arts Advocate (TAA) blog!

Perhaps because it was such a fantastic summer or maybe it was that there is so much to ignite the imagination, but fair to say the TAA blog was the victim of writer’s block! I certainly can’t blame it on lack of inspiration. As I took in a wide variety of plays, museums, art shows and other cultural offerings, I was struck by the richness of what Ontario has to offer. The creativity and originality evident in every corner of the province is remarkable.

 I was equally struck by the perseverance and commitment of the people who make this happen. No-one personifies this more than Rita Davies, who has worked tirelessly to galvanize a city around the power of the creative sector. In her capacity as both the Executive Director of the Toronto Arts Council and more recently as head of the City of Toronto’s Culture Division, Rita has been a driving force behind the rich cultural tapestry that is now Toronto. On leaving her post at the City, Rita’s cri de coeur resonated with those that gathered to say thank you and good-bye in August. More important though, it was a call for all of us committed to a rich cultural life to persevere.

 She said it best:

I started out by describing myself as an arts activist. Not an Executive Director, not a leader or even an advocate, though I have been all those things, but an activist. 

Because that was the other catalytic ingredient in the transformation of Toronto into a creative capital: through the eighties and nineties the arts community, under the umbrella of the Toronto Arts Council, learned that together their voices were strong. … 

We learned that when one voice was joined by hundreds, it was a force, a strong force that packed political clout. So our Mayors and politicians listened. Sure, they listened to the arguments – and they were and are good ones – about employment and economic impact – but they also noticed that this was a real constituency. And the dollars started to get invested. 

And when that happened, the growth became exponential… 

 Thank you Rita. Your perseverance and passion live on, in Toronto and beyond.