In 2012, the City of Ottawa released the Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture (2013-2018). One of the plan’s four key missions was to “invest in local culture and build cultural leadership.” Unfortunately, in the years since the strategy was published, the arts community has not seen the kind of advancements promised in the 2012 proposition.
Though the base funding per year was increased in 2013 and 2014, and additional boosts are expected in the coming four years, the level of support from the City nowhere near matches what was promised in the original strategy. The total base increase is expected to fall at $1.1. million a year, which may seem like a large sum, but falters when you consider the fact that the plan stated the increase would look more like $4,900,000 per year, Ottawa’s Cultural Alliance pointed out to theOttawa Citizen in July 2015.
Ottawa actually stands out in its apathy towards arts and culture, compared to other national metropolises. The Canada Council for the Arts reported that Ottawa spends an average of $7.22 per capita on the arts and festivals, while the average between Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton was $10.50 per capita.
A major point of contention surrounding the long-standing pattern of underfunding in the arts sector is the country’s 150th anniversary of the Confederation, coming up in 2017. Ottawa is set to host high-profile events to celebrate the milestone. This is undoubtedly an opportunity for the cultural sector to shine, yet little is being done to empower or showcase the artistic community in the capital to do so.
A.R.T. in Action is one group seeking to carve out a bigger space for the arts in Ottawa. A collective of local female artists, A.R.T. in Action’s mission is to provide free art programming and mentorships to youth facing barriers. The non-profit was founded in 2014 by Executive Director, Mailyne Briggs, also the owner of Dream Love Grow, and Creative Director, Sarah Lickley, owner ofSEL Creatives. They were inspired to change the lack of arts-centred programming in not only our community, but others also poor in free arts education.
In February 2015, the group successfully hosted their first arts and multimedia workshop. Taking place at the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, the free program lasted six weeks and hosted 8-12 attendees with ages ranging from 14- to 29-years old. The areas explored in the duration spanned from painting to creating linoleum block stamps to t-shirt design (and more!), and ended with a collaborative group project.
A.R.T. in Action was able to run such a program only with the help of donations from the community. Now, they’re turning to the community again to contribute to their noble pursuit of making art accessible to Ottawa youth. Using the crowdfunding site, Generosity, run by Indiegogo, the collective started a campaign a week ago, with the goal of raising $90,000 to offer permanent free art education to adolescents.
The campaign indicates the group has five main purposes for the funds raised: Start after-school drop-in program; grant two youth with mentorships guided by professional artists and entrepreneurs; establish satellite workshop in Nunavut; offer youth leadership training; and obtain permanent studio space.
An investment in local arts is an investment in the community as a whole. The Canada Council for the Arts outlined several benefits of encouraging youth to engage in creative pursuits. Participation in the arts has been shown to build confidence in adolescents, and serves as a useful outlet for individuals with mental health issues. It improves both communication and problem-solving skills, and positively affects academic performance. On an interpersonal level, a closer connection to the public is fostered by offering creative opportunities to youth, which, in turn, builds richer communities.