7/29/10

Funding for Arts, Culture and Recreation

As a candidate, I am often asked about municipal-funded arts, culture and recreation. Public opinion is split. While members of the arts community and supporters say the Town should give more, many taxpayers argue the Town shouldn't subsidize culture at all. I bet smart politicians stay away from divisive issues like this during elections. I'm not that "smart."

A strong cultural community brings direct economic benefits. That is the thesis behind Richard Florida's books and articles on the creative class, a group of people that includes: scientists, engineers, university professors, novelists, artists, entertainers, designers, architects, non-fiction writers, editors, analysts, and opinion-makers. The creative class invests in its community.

Our Town's local culture and proximity to Ottawa—one of Canada's top creative class cities says Florida—has lured members of the creative class to Mississippi Mills already. For every occupation Florida listed above, I can name local people that fit them. Many contribute to our community through volunteerism, philanthropy, and business development. Our Town's cultural reputation is positive and past cultural investments are paying off. Culture contributors and culture supporters are picking our Town as a place to be. It makes good business sense to support and enhance our cultural "brand."

Currently, the Town gives grants to museums, festivals, concerts, the arts, and some recreation groups. The 2010 expenditures are: $21,725 to 11 organizations; $35,000 for the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum; and, $5,000 for the statute of Dr. James Naismith.

My Position:
  • Support ventures that stimulate artistic diversity and economic benefits in partnership with cultural groups, businesses, and private organizations. The soon-to-be-installed bronze statute of Dr. Naismith is an excellent example of a co-venture that will beautify the Town and attract tourists. The bulk of the $30,000 cost will come from service clubs and a public fundraising campaign.
  • Provide a modest, predictable, annual budget that invests in organizations that have a high-level of public, business, and private support (donations, fundraising, and volunteer time). Examples include the Puppets Up Festival and Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month.
  • Look for opportunities to lever investment in cultural events. For example, support advertising campaigns that also promote Mississippi Mills as a destination.
  • Provide non-cash support. For example, have Town staff provide advice and assistance to groups seeking provincial grants.
  • Maintain an arts-friendly economic environment. Artists, sculptors, musicians and others in the culture industry derive meagre incomes from their cultural contribution. A prudent fiscal policy that keeps residential taxes from climbing faster than inflation will help attract and keep them.

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