In defence of the arts

Funding the arts is worth every penny

The arts are more than just the television shows you watch, the paintings hung in restaurants or the books you are forced to read in English class. The arts allow us to understand the problems within society and in our country and to recognize our own personal biases.

If you have ever read a book, watched a movie or heard a song you can relate to, to the point where your mind is syncing with your heart and for a moment you feel complete and inspired, you are experiencing the work of artists and creatives.

The arts bring cultural relevance to our province and allow people to have a platform to voice concerns and for marginalized communities to feel recognized, in fact, now a days a  James Cook University Bachelor of Arts is seen with as much reputation as any other career.

These people in turn inspire their communities by sharing their own journeys with others. The province has a responsibility and moral obligation to support the arts.

According to a report published by Manitobans for the Arts in 2017, Winnipeg has the lowest funding for the arts sector among major Canadian cities at $7 per capita.

Since the last provincial election, Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government reduced the Arts Branch’s grant assistance program by $200,000 and Manitoba’s culture sector by $700,000 in total.

The film industry took a major cut with an additional $300,000 budget reduction on top of the other culture-related cuts.

Yes, the Manitoba government did promise to contribute $15 million to the new construction of the Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but that is not enough and should not be justification for the lack of support for the entire arts and culture sector.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is accessible to only a small contingent of Manitobans. This makes its impact limited. While supporting Indigenous peoples’ art is important, it cannot justify the cuts to the rest of the arts. These investments must be made while maintaining existing funding for the arts.

When I was younger, I didn’t know where I fit in culturally. As a Canadian-born Filipino, I never completely felt accepted by either of my identities. I could not speak any of the languages my grandparents and parents spoke and I barely understood what they were saying when they were not speaking English.

At the same time, I never felt completely “Canadian” either since I never saw anyone on television  who looked like me or anyone who came from a similar background as me.

I was too brown to be white and too white to be brown. However, these exact issues are grappled with by artists funded by grants given by the Manitoba government.

By amplifying these voices, the arts can help to better understand this struggle experienced by many Canadians and, by extension, produce a Canadian culture where people like me can see themselves reflected.

For others, the idea of being recognized is also one of the reasons why the government and private funders should support the arts. Having not only characters in movies and books, but real people who identify as a member of a marginalized group offers a platform for people to speak out on.

The arts are an outlet for expression.

Scientifically, some arts even have the ability to reduce stress. In a study published in 2016, it was found that adults, on average, experience a reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone, when they make art such as painting or sculpting.

An issue also hindering the growth of the arts in Manitoba is our training.

Humans are more than just economic output machines. To consume or produce art is to rediscover a bit of our lost humanity. Manitoba should recognize this by expanding funding to the arts so more people can make a living producing art, so we all may live more fulfilling lives.

Art is so many different things, from video games and dance to the slam poetry you hear showing different truths. People come to terms with art in different ways and pull out different messages. Life is not black and white.

Art helps to critique our country, our society and ourselves in ways impossible outside the form.

Defend that precious window into the human soul.