Has COVID-19 caused us to forget the Arts?
Okay, I get it. We are not to congregate. We are to stay away from each other. We are only to play on the roads. We are to become introverts in the worst way. But enough, this chapter is about the Arts and like sports writers, I have no news to report. At least I didn’t until I listened again to our daily updates about what all our governments are doing for us. Today for the third week in a row I kept waiting for The Merkel Announcement. Still nothing…
What do I mean? If you haven’t heard, after announcing a multi-billion aid for the world of commerce in Germany, the Chancellor the very next day announced a similar fund to ensure that the world of arts likewise was kept from implosion. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of over fifty billion euros, which amounts to about eighty billion Canadian dollars. According to most recent stats on population, Canada’s population is about forty-five percent of Germany’s suggesting a parallel announcement here would be THIRTY-SIX BILLION DOLLARS to ensure our Arts communities not only survive but continue to create during this pandemic.
I am very happy to see all the efforts to provide streaming services from our big orchestras, major playhouses and the like. Moreover numerous artists and museums are helping in-home learning expand beyond school board offerings. BUT my fear is that when the pandemic is over, many will complacently decide such is the best way to experience the Arts. As a result many local venues for drama, music, art and dance may remained shuttered because their performers have disappeared either to other jobs or communities to survive. Even now our biggest drama festival in Stratford Ontario is expressing grave concerns not only with the loss of ticket sales, but also the decline in donations due to corporate and private belt-tightening from reduced revenue streams. If this organization is concerned, what are the chances for places in a community like the South Okanagan/Similkameen — e.g. Tempest Theatre, Many Hats, Venables Auditorium, Okanagan Symphony, The Cleland Theatre, the Lakeside’s performing venue, local Art Galleries, museums from Summerland to Princeton, the Spirit Centre, the En’owkin Centre?
No time to delay. Whoever your local MP is you need to personally and effectively get in touch. Tell them we want our own Merkel Announcement. Give Germany the credit even, but get the need front and centre. Thirty-Six Billion across the country. We need our mental health and the Arts are significant enhancers!!
Consider this as an example (you can work it out for your province): BC’s population is 14% of Canada making its allocation approximately five billion – the South Okanagan/Similkameen is approximately 2% of BC’s population making it eligible for about one hundred million. I find the people of the Okanagan (like the people in PEI for starters) are as creative as the Germans – think the number of former students now studying at great Arts schools, others playing in great symphonies or working in other forms of the Arts. We have a Symphony I enjoy just as much as Edmonton’s or Baltimore’s. Our Art Gallery is as relevant as Vancouver’s or Regina’s. I go to Many Hats, Tempest and the Venables more often than I do the Stratford Festival. I’m at the Dream Café more frequently than any dinner theatre in Calgary or Victoria. I want these all to be alive and well when normalcy returns. BUT in the meantime I would like them all doing and sharing creative things to help us through self-isolation and boredom.
Think about the facilities and venues in your area — most of them are operated by volunteer or not-for-profit entities. They are not endowed with big corporate donors; and, if they are, chances those donors are a lot let flush these days too. The PEI and Richmond (BC) Symphonies may put on four or five concerts a year yet they utilize local talent and give their clients top-quality musical entertainment — think how much the community will lose if they don’t recover. Do you want to have only the Royal Ontario Museum as a place to go should the museums in London or Kingston not be in a position to reopen?
NO!! We want to make sure that along with businesses, corporations and education systems, the arts community emerges from the pandemic in a robust fashion. But that won’t happen if there are serious bankruptcies, actors (like those who planned on playing for Bard on the Beach) leave town or even the country to look for work, or medium-sized orchestras simply close shop. Good mental wellness depends to no small degree on music and the rest of the arts continually stirring and/or growing the mind to greater and greater moments.
It is now that we need some significant boosts for the Arts. Don’t wait until I have to say I told you so!! So get in touch with your MP any way you can. Be forceful without being rude. Get us our Merkel Announcement.