Harsh Commentary on Arts Advocacy in Saskatchewan

This post is a series of outtakes and rants that I wrote in tandem with my article “SAA focuses on funding cuts to the arts: Meeting comes up short on strategy” in May 2007 for the June 2007 issue of the CARFAC Saskatchewan Visual Artists newsletter. I had gone to the meeting organized by the SAA (Saskatchewan Arts Alliance) on assignment from my editor, to report on the outcome of the plan “to develop a strategy for improving the dismal state of provincial funding for artists, arts organizations, cultural industries and heritage.” Thinking about the meeting and what was discussed caused me no end of irritation for two weeks, until I finally decided to write everything down. Then I edited. Below is the stuff that didn’t make it past my politeness filters, in all its pugilistic glory. The article that I submitted to my editor is posted here. You might want to read it first, for reference.

I didn’t see the discussion as having been terribly effective in achieving the stated goals of the meeting. It was more of a bitch-and-brainstorm session than a constructive strategic meeting. As such I have no concrete strategy to report on because none was decided upon.

In my opinion the SAA needs to develop a set of desired outcomes rather than spend energy on reactive strategies to the chronic underfunding of the sector. In this way the desired outcomes will drive the strategy. At the meeting I talked about finding champions within government who could carry our torch without dropping it, of developing a culture of conspicuous consumerism of arts and culture as has been done in Britain, of adopting strategies from other sectors where lobbying is successful, of the uphill battle in trying to gain credibility in a demographic which is suspicious of “high culture” to begin with: peasants and protestants.

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Arts Alliance Complains About Funding, Discusses Options

This article originally appeared in the CARFAC Saskatchewan Newsletter in June 2007. It was titled “SAA focuses on funding cuts to the arts: Meeting comes up short on strategy”, and billed as “commentary by Ed Pas.” The headline was assigned by my editor and to my mind is a bit inaccurate. But it’s difficult to encapsulate everything I cover in my rant/report so I’m willing to cut him some slack.

On May 1 the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance (SAA) hosted a general meeting of the arts community at The Refinery in Saskatoon. The SAA is a non-profit coalition of arts organizations whose mandate includes advocating on issues such as public funding of the arts, freedom of expression and artists’ working conditions.

The meeting was held in “response to the inadequate and demoralizing allocation for the arts in the [March 2007] provincial budget.” The goal of the meeting was “to develop a strategy for improving the dismal state of provincial funding for artists, arts organizations, cultural industries and heritage.” (Note that in the context of this article, I’ll use the terms “arts” and “artist” broadly to include visual, literary, performing, and media arts.)

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Vernacular Art Redux

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any stranger, the film industry had to go and twist around my worldview, and not in a good way. Via a chain of websites that is long and complex enough to make Rube Goldberg look like a master of direct action comes the news that a Hollywood studio plans to make a movie based on a Thomas Kinkade painting. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, have a look at my post about Gallery Admission Fees, where I attempt to give sound reasons for considering vernacular art for exhibition at contemporary art galleries. Also helpful in parsing this strange convergence is the fact that Kinkade has sold millions of copies of his paintings via malls, mail-order, and television shopping.

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Gallery Admission Fees Part 3: View from the Soapbox

This is my third post prompted by the impeding debate about admission fees to Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery. In this post I get up on my soapbox and spew venom on both sides of the fee vs. free admission debate. I’ll start of by letting everyone know my position on this, so you can decide whether you want to continue reading. My position is this: I support reasonable user fees for public galleries and museums. I’m also in favour of exhibiting so-called “vernacular” art even though I don’t like much of the latter.

Update 11:00 pm, 9 March 2007: Be sure to check out my Vernacular Art Redux post after you’ve finished this one.

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A Rant: Civic Politicians, Specious Arguments, and Salted Smoked Fish

In the aftermath of my talk at Paved Arts last week I’ve been trying to clear my head enough to get on with some administrative work that needs to be done. However my head has had so many things swimming around in it (no kippers, though) that I decided to simply write them up as a blog post.

First up is the Mendel Art Gallery’s expansion plan, and the city council meeting I attended on 26 February 2007 to support the Mendel’s efforts. Although the meeting was long, it was really interesting to watch the meeting and get a sense of the civic political process. As has been reported elsewhere, the vote passed after a great deal of time spent debating the idea of gallery admission fees. This idea of admission fees has been looked at many times in the past. In this specific instance was brought forward with what appeared to be no advance notice. Because of this procedural misstep on the part of Councillor Myles Heidt, the matter was eventually taken off the motion concerning the Mendel expansion. I have thoughts on the issue of gallery admission fees, but I’ll save those for later.

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Going Postal

For the past couple of days I’ve briefly mentioned my recent encounters with the Japanese postal system. Today you get the complete report. Or as complete as I can make it given my chronically sleep-deprived state. This is a rant of sorts, but a mild one.

The short version of the story is that according to Japan Post, Canadian customs regulations are the strictest in the world so they require extremely detailed declarations on all shipments.

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Kokura Fashion Report Postscript

Or, The Screaming Toddler, or The Real Reason I Had To Revise the Fashion Report

This post is only about fashion because it has to do with the Kokura fashion report posts. Other than that, it’s a rant about the strangeness of Japan. So if you’re traversing my site by category, you might want to skip this one. The rest of you will either be amused or horrified.

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