The Arts on the Radar

If the first few weeks of the New Year are any indication, the arts, and more specifically, artist-run centres are increasingly on the radar of the mainstream media. Of great interest to our milieu, is the publication in the Canadian press, of results from a recent telephone poll of 1,001 Canadians, conducted by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc., last summer, at the request of the federal government. The survey reveals that a crushing majority of Canadians are in favour of government support for the arts. The poll breaks down the responses according to personal participation in activities, overall access to facilities and their quality. In conclusion, the survey notes a marked increase in online engagement in the arts and culture which confirms a fundamental transformation in how art is produced, disseminated and enjoyed which is contributing to changes also on how art is to be funded by agencies sush as the Canada Council.

In another instance, Le Devoir published in its Saturday January 5, 2013 issue, a brief article on what is refered to as the Burgess report, as relayed by Hill strategies Research Inc. The report titled The Distinct Role of Artist-Run Centres in the Visual Arts Ecology was commissioned by the Canada Council in 2011, and aims to shed light on the distinct contribution of artist-run centres in the complex field of the visual arts.

These two occurences are significant in view of a lamented decrease in arts coverage in the mainstream media in recent years. It is also welcome considering the perceived and real threat to arts funding by governments’ austerity agendas both in Canada and other western countries. The results also serve to demonstrate that the ongoing efforts of arts organisations to engage audiences are fruitful and contribute to growing the arts sector of the economy. In Artist-run centres alone, a statistical analysis of the Burgess Report reveals that in 2010, “over 4,000 artists exhibited their work in more than 800 exhibitions programmed by ARCs. A similar number of publications were also created in various formats. Total attendance at centres’ exhibitions was 2.1 million.”

These two articles published in the mainstream media raise awareness of artist-run centres and other arts organisations and their relentless efforts in obtaining increased financial resources to support their programming, operational needs, growth in the regions, production of critical publications, collaborative activities, artist residencies, and professional development.