Towards A Terrific Toronto Culture Scene
The Toronto Star runs a profile on Rita Davies, Toronto’s culture czar (actually the executive director of culture for the city) and touts her work as one of the reasons why Toronto’s culture scene isn’t just surviving but arguably thriving today. Inspiringly Davies also asks us to compare ourselves to other great cities like San Francisco, Milan and Chicago. Over the last decades Davies has fought for the arts and even created a 10-year plan in 2003 called The Culture Plan for the Creative City.
Torontoist can’t disagree with many of the policy initiatives in the document: increasing per capita arts funding to levels closer to Montreal and Chicago ($25 bucks a head in case you were curious), one percent of funding to public art, major infrastructure renewal and development. These are all things that have been put into place and have had a largely positive impact on the city.
What we are concerned about is how cultural planners look at large projects like museums and opera houses but seemingly ignore cultural incubators. What are they? The most obvious are places like art schools, faculties of music, universities and arts education at our high schools and elementary schools. These are largely out of the hands of the city. University funding is done by the province, the city has a little more control of the city’s schools.
But there are dozens of hidden incubators all over this city. Wavelength, has been going strong for six years and with not a single cent of government funding. There are dozen of artist run centres nurturing visual artists that in the long run go on to make an impact not just in the art world but in other cultural spaces. Independent presses and writer’s workshops continue to help writers in the city get published. Finally what about protecting this city’s great neighbourhoods and many small art spaces that make art making and showing possible.
Policymakers always seem to miss out on this element of cultural policy and it’s a crucial one. Look at any great cultural cities and just below the surface you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of smaller cultural institutions helping artists eventually do their best work that will hopefully get the recognized in a larger setting. It’s here that you’ll find the foundation of a great cultural city and its future. It’s about time that a city’s culture plan recognize that.