The State of the Arts in Welland

The current state of the arts in Welland is interesting indeed, to those who have been a witness to the changes that have occurred in the last year or so. An apparent recognition and acknowledgement toward a greater appreciation of visual arts has taken place in the eyes of the general public. It is not as though there wasn’t anything happening here beforehand in local art community, as there are many local artists living and creating within the confines of this city and beyond, but it was often given little recognition other than bland courtesy. Art was there, and that’s about it. There was a couple events, a wall, the occasional newspaper mention, but in the eyes of the public, art was an insular and unfamiliar concept.

Eventually, there was change, thanks to more independent cultural activities and events of a grassroots nature, based on enthusiasm, a DIIY ethic, and networking with the people in the neighbourhood. With the involvement of community, what was once viewed as a group of “violent and risqué” artists and photographers pushed the boundaries of complacency and sterility, and tried something new and different on their own, without the help of public funding or begging for money from committees and governments. This created a renewed interest in local arts in the general public that has not been seen since a once-hyped mural project was touted as a saviour to the downtown core almost a couple decades ago.

This happened mostly because of a will to create something that was an alternative to the safe art shows  that would remain the “wallflowers at party” of local community events. While a few artists pushed their own boundaries, they also networked and gained experiences in what was slowly becoming a movement towards creating a syndicate of independent creative talent, eventually drawing attention from the local populace, the community media, and other interested people of greater resource and awareness. This would eventually culminate into a non-permanent experiment into a pop-up gallery and community space that was received warmly by many in this city. This experiment gained such attention in this community that ever since its conclusion, it has been repeatedly offered ways and means to again re-create such an experiment in hopes that it lasts longer or becomes permanent. Suddenly art meant something around here again, and it wasn’t viewed as a “waste of taxpayer’s money” as it requested no public funding. Other than donations of space to exhibit and efforts from those that wished to volunteer themselves or their resources, this was done entirely through the work of the artists themselves that were interested in encouraging and exhibiting their work.

I anticipate the coming potential that this community has to local artists, and, hopefully, to artists from even beyond this community. The reasons I see such potential are due to the nature of this community itself: this community is in transition state where its previous socioeconomic structure has been nearly eradicated and with that comes the ability to create something new here that has not yet happened here before. This is not to say that the art produced by many artists in this city is anything new, just new to here. Many have complained that there is nothing here or nothing to do here, so that being said, doing anything has the potential for excitement. Interesting how what was once called “violent and risqué” is now referred to as “contemporary art”. As well, we are in an environment that is not only opening itself up to art and artists, it is also enticing to artists due to the natural beauty in its scenery that can be inspiring, it’s cost-efficient real estate (read as: cheap space to rent to live and work), and its central location in the heart of Niagara, which is already a very cultural and artistic region. As well, there is a growing network of artists here that are supportive and focused on the promotion of not only their own individual work, but in the work of their peers and toward a conscious group effort for themselves as well as this community. We do not want to be merely a reflection of our community, but also a vocal and active part of it. So long as the support of this community in the appreciation of art continues both emotionally and physically, I foresee a bright future ahead for art in this community.

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