Tories kill arts grants for foreign travel
I just heard about this from MIchael Alstad, and am so outraged. There are really only two travel funds for artists in Canada, and this is one of them, and it has just been pulled by the Tory government for ideological reasons. They are arguing that the funding program has been used to promote the work and travel of "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank" and "a general radical", among others who "would raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian".
I don't think it is acceptable to pull funding for a travel program on this basis. The role of art is to raise questions, sometimes difficult ones, and to articulate alternate perspectives. Art should raise eyebrows. This is clearly an ideological stance, and is about controlling the movement of people connected to certain ideas. Plus, the vast majority of groups historically supported by this program don't fall into this category, anyway.
The companion article in the National Post, titled "Ending PromArt's Gravy Train", anticipating the "stink" about this that will be raised by artists, arguing censorship, writes "If Canadian artists produce world-class art, then it will be noticed on the world stage -- with or without government assistance."
I'm not going to argue censorship on this one, or at least not only. My question here is: Do they think art just "happens"?
Art is an industry. Art needs structures, agencies and supports, like any other industry. The argument that it should just find its way out of the country on its own, and that if it doesn't, it is somehow below par, is mind-bogglingly naive.
Think about all the funding that is provided for Canadians to travel abroad on various missions related to business development. Of what value is this? Well, it builds relationships, makes it possible for deals to happen, exposes people to new ideas, creates marketplaces. This is all fine, apparently, when it is happening for industries that fall under the umbrella of "business". But when it falls under the "arts and culture" umbrella, somehow it is unnecessary.
They need to re-think this one. I just hope they do it before Canada becomes a pathetic cultureless backwater.
The federal government will cancel a program today that sent artists abroad to promote Canadian culture because the program's grant recipients included "a general radical," "a left-wing and anti-globalization think-tank" and a rock band that uses an expletive as part of its name.
The Conservatives are cancelling the $4.7-million PromArt program administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade because most of the money "went to groups that would raise the eyebrows of any typical Canadian," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.