Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Do artists say thank you enough?

Thanks and acknowledgment of government investment in the arts is a big topic for the federal government.  Just how big was reinforced when one of the first questions posed recently at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage pointedly suggested artists don’t do it.

This is what Conservative MP John Weston had to say on the topic as the Committee’s current study on the music industry got underway:

I am very interested in this topic because I am not very familiar with it. If we compare musicians to athletes, we can say that many athletes thank Canadians and our country for their support. In my riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, there are a lot of famous musicians, including Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Randy Bachman, Shari Ulrich and Diana Krall. I am not sure whether I have heard them thank the government for its support. … Is that because musicians don’t think about it?  (Canadian Heritage Committee Hansard, 4 March 2014)

Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover was more subtle and nuanced in her comments about this topic at the public Annual General Meeting of the Canada Council for the Arts:

We are the only G7 country that did not cut arts funding during the global recession and recovery. People forget that. You’re doing such a good job implicating the public and making sure people know there is no political influence when these choices are made that they forget that the Government of Canada is actually part of this. So, good on you, keep doing what you’re doing. Every once in a while, mention us.

As federal politicians ramp up to the 2015 election, it looks like this issue will become an increasingly important concern.  There is a clear perception and belief that the Government of Canada is not adequately or sufficiently acknowledged for its investment in culture, which is undeniably significant.

So, do artists and arts organizations say thank you enough?