We are experiencing an ongoing crisis in Hamilton. The arts are desperately underfunded.
Art enriches our lives. Whether you are an artist, a consumer, or an admirer of art, it helps you and your community thrive. While art can be entertaining, entertainment is usually not its primary goal.
Art provides cultural nourishment for society. It strengthens our communal immune system, making us more resilient as a community and better equipped to cope with life's challenges. Art makes us healthier.
Art helps in giving form and expression to our vision and aspirations. It provides a vehicle for a powerful form of communication about our collective identity. The language of art cuts across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers. Art connects us.
In addition to the community benefits, most of us have experienced an enhanced sense of self when interacting with art. It challenges, pleases, disgusts, delights, and titillates us. The way that we react, the emotions that we experience give us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Art promotes self awareness.
It boosts our confidence when the rest of the country takes notice of the remarkable advancements that a city like Hamilton has experienced in its now famous arts scene. Art makes us proud.
The arts provide many jobs and stimulate economic activity. It helps us attract and retain new residents. In a country like England where the arts have benefitted from robust public funding, culture has created 700,000 jobs and contributed over $40 billion dollars to the national economy annually. It has been demonstrated that for every dollar invested in the cultural sector, up to six dollars are generated for the local economy. Art helps us prosper.
So, investing in the arts is smart business. The City of Toronto is now working to increase their support of the arts to $25 per capita to catch up to other major Canadian cities like Montreal and Calgary that invest twice as much per capita in cultural spending. Meanwhile, in Hamilton we invest a little over $3 per person, trailing behind other mid-sized municipalities like Winnipeg and Ottawa who invest between $7.26 and $10.10 a head. We are even behind much smaller places like London, Windsor and Waterloo in funding levels.
Recent recommendations by the Arts Funding Taskforce, established by the Arts Advisory Commission, suggest an overall increase in arts spending of $1,000,000. If accepted by council, this will bring the City’s annual arts investment up to $4.50 per capita. It’s a good start, but still below where we should be.
As a municipality with ongoing economic challenges, we simply cannot afford to foolishly miss out on such opportunities. Especially in Hamilton for heaven’s sake, where we have gained a national and even global reputation for our arts scene! We must leverage this remarkable asset. If we hope to reinforce and ensure the sustainability of our current renewal, we need to turn this funding crisis around now.