On the night of Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, I was given the opportunity to address our city council. The Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, appointed by council of citizens who had applied for it, is at risk of being lumped together with a few other advisory committees in our city (Wellness Centre Advisory Committee, Arena Advisory Committee, and the Market Square Advisory Committee), at the suggestion of councillors. This suggestion was based on the fact that some of these committees mentioned did not have enough interested applicants to form full committees.
As a local artist, who had often worked with the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee in the capacity of participating with its subcommittee for Public Arts, I was acutely aware of the need for maintaining this committee, and ensuring some of the projects that had been discussed with local public arts continues. As well, as an artist having participated with many events, groups, and initiatives, I am aware of the importance this citizens advisory committe has in our community.
Below is the full presentation that I have given to city council for all to read and digest.
I’d like to thank His Worship Mayor Campion and the councilors for granting me the opportunity to address an issue that I feel of importance to the fabric of our community.
As a local artist, I have had the privilege and pleasure to have participated in many artistic endeavors that have had some impact and influence on this community. I address you all as an independent local artist, outside of the confines of any artists group, committee, board, or organization, and wish to express my desire to see the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee as a separate and intact committee. I understand the importance that arts and culture has to this community firsthand, and am excited at the possibilities that exist for arts and culture in our community, as there seems to be a growing sense of appreciation for the arts in the minds of the general public (as indicated to me in the survey results from a questionnaire created and distributed to its citizens, and the many news articles that have made front pages in the last couple years, as well as weeks). I feel that the reduction of this citizen’s advisory committee is detrimental to the development of arts and culture in our community, and feel the repercussions of such a decision may adversely affect the climate being created currently in this city as a new and yet-to-be defined centre for arts and culture in Niagara. My argument in favour of maintaining this committee as intact and separate is based on five points of which I’d like to address.
Enough applicants to form the Arts & Culture Advisory Committee.
The decision to consider to amalgamate the various committees for the Welland Arena, the Wellness Centre, and Market Square Committees along with the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee is based upon the lack of applicants for all these committees. In the case of the applicants for Arts and Culture, there were enough applicants to have formed a committee.
Not exclusive to one area or facility.
Most of the committees being amalgamated are responsible for the direction of specific locations or facilities. Since the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy also deals with artworks existing within the public realm at various locations within the municipality, it has a far wider spectrum of management geographically.
Beneficial for the health of the community through engagement.
Under the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy, the Guiding Principle of “Arts and Culture mak[ing] a significant contribution to the quality of life and vitality of the community” already acknowledges that there are benefits to the community, through engagement of arts and the public. This engagement is mentioned in this same policy in Section 1.4 in
“creat[ing] citizen engagement opportunities that will facilitate citizens input to the City’s decision making processes on matters related to Arts and Culture.” By reducing the standalone committee on Arts and Culture, it is limiting this opportunity for engagement.
Create an atmosphere for economic development.
In the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy’s Guiding Principles it states that “Investment in Arts and Culture will produce a significant contribution to the economic well-being of the community”, which fully acknowledges that arts can contribute to economic development. The City of Welland already retains numerous assets made in investments into Arts and Culture, and currently, there is a growing creative cluster attracted to this municipality due to the rise in the creative class of employed or self-employed workers. They are attracted to this area due to the growing environment being created of supports for arts through public and private interests, cost-efficiency, and its natural surroundings. By limiting engagement of such activities by the reduction of the standalone committee, it may affect the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy’s goal of “engag[ing] citizens and develop[ing] partnerships with all sectors (e.g. private, public, nonprofit organizations) in the development of Arts and Culture,” and “ensur[ing] that Arts and Culture is included in other municipal strategies and plans such as economic policy, social policy, downtown development and public works projects” and therefore reduce the impact of making such economic development.
Potentially missing an opportunity for involvement in creating cultural heritage.
By reducing the standalone Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, there could be an adverse affect on the involvement of the City of Welland of the arts and culture of this community. It has been identified in the recent public opinion survey by the City of Welland that arts and culture in this community is of some importance, and I personally feel and can attest to the growing opportunities being created by and for artists in this city on all levels. We have already seen community efforts in “develop[ing] new public spaces for Arts and Culture” (as listed in the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy’s goals), such as Guerrilla Park. This opportunity to participate and support such community efforts should not be simply be acknowledged, but engaged by the City of Welland as a willing partner and participant in developing not only this specific situation, but any future events, art pieces in the public realm, the engagement of the community in local arts and culture, and the promotion of arts and culture in the City of Welland for the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the entire community. By reducing the standalone Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, there is the risk of loss of engagement and participation in local arts and culture from the City of Welland.
In conclusion, I again urge city council to reconsider a decision to combine various other citizens’ advisory committees with Arts and Culture. I feel that the City of Welland can continue to participate in the development of the renewed sense of enthusiasm of civic and community pride; and the appreciation, engagement and continuation of the current artistic and cultural climate and its growth. I urge you all to consider the option of maintaining this committee as a separate and intact advisory group, so that artists may continue to see the City as a willing and able partner in the artistic and cultural impact of not only our community, but beyond its borders as well.