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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Do we need artists to create the new creative economy?

Back-to-back articles have appeared in Toronto’s two most-read newspapers, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, regarding creativity and artists that seem to underscore a dissonance between government spending and economic objectives.

The first piece in The Star titled “Report urges 'creativity-oriented economy' for Ontario”, summarizes a multi-million dollar report prepared for the provincial government on how to prepare our economy for the future. Amongst the recommendations:
“- Set a goal of having more than 50 per cent of Ontario's employment in "creativity-oriented jobs" by 2030. Currently, 30 per cent of jobs are in that category, accounting for nearly half of all wages.”
The second piece in The Globe titled, “Starving artists? That's not far from the mark”, analyzes a report based on the 2006 census commissioned by The Canada Council for the Arts, The Ontario Arts Council, and The Department of Heritage. Amongst the conclusions:
“What makes the situation even more distressing is that artist earnings have been decreasing since 1990 – a decline likely to intensify over the next two years. While average earnings for the overall labour force rose by almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2005, artists experienced a slide of 11 per cent – to $22,731 from $25,433 – at the same time as the cultural-sector work force tripled in size. Actors experienced the sharpest decline in average earnings among artists, dropping 34 per cent to about $18,000 in 2005.”
Both of these studies come on the heels of the Department of Heritage announcing a new strategy to spend $25 Million to create The Canada Prizes, an American Idol-style competition that uses big money cash prizes to attract non-Canadian talent for a one week in June in Toronto.

These two studies seem to contrast greatly with the latest funding announcements made by brand new Heritage Minister James Moore. Will the trickle down economics of this one-week bonanza reap dividends for taxpayers seeking to revitalize a domestic creative economy? What role do artists play in a society seeking to increase creativity-oriented jobs by 20%? If your country’s artists are living in poverty and the situation is getting worse, can you expect to make this economic shift?


MK Piatkowski said...

First, love the image. My mother is trying to sell off our Commodore - she's convinced there's a market. Is she right?

The comments on the Globe article show why we have this disparity. We still haven't made the case for the value of what we do. Hopefully this study by the Ontario government will help in that regard.

Michael Wheeler said...

Thanks MK, I have to say, agree with the thesis or not, the image is an unqualified degree of awesome. Great to see you at the show last night.

Michael Wheeler said...

The plot thickens:

This is now the top rated entertainment story on CBC:
Canada Prize for the Arts ignites fury in Quebec

There is also a link to the Prize being discussed today wirth Jian Ghomeshi on Q off the CBC page.

One thing I have to say: In my mind this is not a Toronto vs Montreal issue or francophone vs anglophone issue. This is about a government to appear to be responsive to the needs of Canadian culture, while failing miserably at this goal.

ben said...

"Do we need artists to create the new creative ecomony?"...

Maybe not... if we import it! (just like films...)

Yeah, tourism... (25 mil for hotels and NPO organizers and import culture)

Sorry, but the more I hear about it, the worse it tastes.

Michael Wheeler said...

Come on dude, it will also mean a very good week for babysitters in Rosedale.

howboy said...

I think it pretty unlikely that the prize idea ever happens. It would be completely absurd in this economy to spend $25m on an award to non-Canadians.

It is also plain scary how David Pecault continues to get money "out of the blue" from government. What's the story with that guy anyway? Could somebody at CBC please get on that?

But the principle of a worldwide prize is interesting. It would help put Canada on the global art map in a way that could help Canadian artists develop international careers. Certainly the grant system is failing, as the decreasing incomes of artists indicates. There are more and more artists (or at least artists who are telling Statistics Canada that they are artists) among whom available funding is spread thinner and thinner.

Maybe the prize isn't the thing, but something "outside the box" is needed right now.