What's the first word that springs to mind when you think of the Hamilton Spectator? Chances are your adjective of choice isn't "adorable." But on April 23, the cover of the Spectator's GO Section was adorable. Boasting the headline "Cats in hats: It doesn't get much cuter than this," it was slathered with images of felines in knitted hats. Cute, right? I inevitably held it up to show my better half, and immediately we gave a collective, "Awww." We're predictable like that.
After the initial overdose of cuteness, something struck me. I couldn't help but think of the dozens of artists and local arts organizations who would have killed for the front page of the GO Section. I couldn't help but think of the many authors, musicians, visual artists, arts advocates, arts events, and arts issues that could have taken precedent over an Associated Press article about cats wearing hats. (Surely there's a local artisan making hats for local cats who could have been highlighted). But in a world of tight budgets, local arts coverage is often the first to go.
In Transforming Hamilton Through Culture, the City of Hamilton's Cultural Plan, which was approved by Council on October 23, 2013, cultural leaders identified three major opportunities. Communication was one of them, the plan stating "Increasing arts coverage will raise the caliber of public dialogue around the arts."
Arts coverage matters, and it isn't only crucial because it helps artists and arts organizations fill seats at events or sell copies of their books. Though creating interest is one important function of arts reporting, there are many other reasons that arts coverage is crucial to Hamilton.
- Local arts coverage tells artists and arts organizations that their work is valid and valued. It celebrates the achievements of local artists, giving voice to crucial members of the community.
- Local arts coverage raises awareness about the value and impact the arts have on Hamilton.
- Local arts coverage helps to inspire a new generation of artists, giving children and youth the artistic role models they need.
- Local arts coverage builds social capital. It helps to create and sustain a sense of community and shared identity.
- If done correctly, local arts coverage reflects the diversity of our community and the diversity of the artists within our community.
- Local arts coverage creates a dialogue about issues important to artists.
- Local arts coverage leads to economic growth within the arts community.
- Local arts coverage celebrates creative expression. In a world of bad news, celebrating the arts can be a bright spot in the constant news cycle of doom and gloom.
This, of course, is just a selection of why arts coverage is crucial in Hamilton. So, what do we do? As artists, we need to demand more from our mainstream local media. We also need to support the independent journalists and bloggers and publications that work tirelessly to promote the arts. The local literary community is lucky to have many local advocates in its corner, among them literary reviews (Hamilton Arts and Letters), bloggers (Dead Letter Birds), and reviewers who are dedicated to increasing awareness of the literary arts in Hamilton. I like to think it's our job as artists to support them in the same way they support us.