Why Welland Doesn’t Have an Arts Scene

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The culture of ignorance remains steadfast in this rust-belt town. It has manifested itself into a legacy of hopelessness for many and continues to drive away talent, as most elements are controlled by small-minded individuals who prefer inertia to action.

Long ago, the die had been cast for the fate of this city. At the end of this city’s manufacturing age, an air of mistrust had descended it’s gloomy cloud above the community, and this same mistrust has not only ensured the continued division of people, but enables a separation and divide so deep, there is little hope remaining for many of the citizens in this community. This ensured a coming to power from individuals whose sole purpose is the defeat and despair of many for their own personal reward.

In all this venomous atmosphere, a few people had gathered together to try to create an art scene. As noble as these attempts are, failure continues to be a viable option.

As has been illustrated to me personally through my own experiences, this community is not yet able to socially, financially, and securely support a private arts community.

1. It cannot support it financially: there simply isn’t the economic base here to support art. Without a major employer or employment field, this community has very little of a fiscal leg to stand on. People simply do not have enough money to support arts, and those that do, do not take arts seriously enough, nor are there are enough numbers, to support an arts base. The extra income to spend in support of artists work is rarely regular, although the desire is there. As well, artists cannot, nor should not, rely solely on public funding.

2. It cannot support it socially: too many view the artists locally as “weird”, “perverts”, or as common crooks. Continuing to live on the social fringes in many others’ eyes, the continuing alienation of artists from the rest of “nice” society continues to add the air of division between people. Artists may be made to feel ignored, unimportant, or as a joke. Some, like myself, have often felt bullied by others for being themselves. This may not be an unfamiliar feeling to many creative types, but with few options for social acceptability, it feeds discouragement and contributes to alienation.

3. It cannot support it securely: there is no outlet for most artists in this community, especially for the avant garde. There will always be room for “nice artists” who do as they’re told, stay in their allotted corner, and participate in authorized mainstream events. The failures of such events has been expressed repeatedly, and has also added to discouragement: the progressiveness of the local arts is slim to none, the options for participation are mostly municipally-sanctioned and sterile, and the events are too few and far between. These events are also highly censored, allowing little room for change, and do not allow the full free expression of artists and limit networking to itself.

The results of all these is the lack of creative talent retained in this community. We literally chase away any sort of talent eventually. Most know that their fortunes and fate are very limited here. Many creative types are enticed by scenes and communities more prosperous, both culturally and financially. They realize their art doesn’t sell here, the respect for creative professions and work is lacking, and efforts often result in the feeling that pearls have been cast before swine. Efforts to create an arts network are met with resistance from self-appointed guides of culture and taste, dismissed as unimportant, or are merely ignored or discouraged enough to go away.

If this community truly wishes to see an arts scene or any sort of private arts enterprise, it must simply allow it to happen, and help create an atmosphere that nurtures such vibrancy. To do so, a number of things should change:

Attitude: Art is important, though not a silver bullet solution. It contributes to the betterment of society as a whole, its not just pretty pictures, but an expression of the environment it is created in. It has value. Its creators are contributing members of the local society.

Legacy: The murals are proof of this. What was treated as a once great source of pride, and has become considered by many a “waste of money”, as results were expected that did not come to fruition. The abandonment of this arts project by City Fathers illustrates the lack of long-term planning, and with no bylaws in place to ensure the protection of public art, ANY arts project deemed for public display runs the risk of being abandoned and misused.

Economic support: Since there are few jobs, little money, and few tourist dollars coming into the community, art doesn’t sell. Seeking out income from sources outside of Welland would be possible, but there is little other enticement for these people to come here. There are few regular year-round options for those outside this community to attend and enjoy local arts, no regular venues for the display of artistic expression other than a few walls, and few other attractions of a cultural or artistic nature, other than municipally-sanctioned ones. Shopping, eating, and the semi-regular concert on the water are not enough to bring the outside art enthusiasts flocking, let alone even gain their interest.

As long as the clock-punching, jock-worshipping, ignorant and pessimistic attitude continues to control and influence the culture and legacy of this city, any attempt at an arts scene is nearly impossible to maintain in this community for a long period. What few attempts have occurred have eventually been chased away, enticed by more progressive communities, or simply faded away.

What began as fun simply stopped being that way. It became discouraging, hurtful, and pessimistic. There is little to keep it here, and it will disappear as quickly as we manifested.

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7 thoughts on “Why Welland Doesn’t Have an Arts Scene

  1. You mentioned the murals that were put up, if I recall correctly, in the late eighties. I remember walking to the Lincoln Mall and seeing the flower murals on the building, and then years later when the mall was given a facelift, I remember being disappointed when they never got put back up.
    It’s a pity things like this aren’t taken more seriously.

  2. It sounds like Welland has sucked the life out of you or at least it is winning the morale battle. Hang in there. I always thought the best market for things re Welland are the ex pats who are in diaspora all over the place but maybe a lot in the GTA.

  3. Pingback: The Argument For a Designated Graffiti Wall in Welland | The Black Lantern

  4. Pingback: How to Support Your Local Artist | The Black Lantern

  5. Hello James,

    What, if any, By-laws have you put in place to ensure the longevity and protection of your “Welland” mural?

    • Currently, a public arts policy is being created by the City, and will eventually be in place.

      Since the Welland art wall is private property, it will not be covered by the public arts policy. In fact, all murals are now considered private property, and such public arts policy will not affect them.

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