I don’t think there is one thing that people, Winnipeggers specifically, say that irks me more than when they crap on the arts scene in Winnipeg. They claim there are no opportunities for creative pursuits in this city. Or that they dislike the arts/feel them an unnecessary waste of tax payers’ dollars.
To respond to the latter, I quote a good friend who knows a lot more about arts writing and the local scene than I do: “Okay, so you don’t watch TV? You don’t watch movies? You don’t read books, magazines, newspapers, or listen to music?” Unless you don’t participate in any of the above, you can’t say this, and mean it. (And if you didn’t do any of the above, how boring and isolated would your life be?) That being said, a person may not do ALL of the above, but there is no way of avoiding them all.
Sure, we may not be a destination hotspot for many huge tours, but economically, can you blame them? We’re in the middle of nowhere, with the closest American stop nine hours away. That being said, the MTS Centre is one of the busiest venues of its size in the world, so we’re not doing too poorly.
Looking beyond the biggest pop stars and touring acts, there is a great wealth of performing acts and artists of different mediums in this city. You can bet that every weekend in Winnipeg there is something to go see, whether its cinema, a band CD release show, or an exhibition opening at a gallery. We have great smaller sized venues, and so many talented folks who have endless days of bad weather to be shut up through and develop their skills. There is something for everyone, no matter your taste. Not everything is dead bunnies and menstrual blood, as my friend says.
The cost of living here is also beneficial to artists. Just look at all of the start-up companies and collectives that come together to create great art. And our smaller population allows you to make a name for yourself and be recognized for your work, as well as find and connect with other like-minded folks. Winnipeg is one of the best cities to begin as an actor, with so many local companies holding open auditions, and one casting agent for the whole province. Plus, we are so fortunate to have funding opportunities, both public and private, to be able to create world-class art. We’re not talking tons of money here, but just enough to allow someone to take some time from their regular job to finish up that project, or put the professional touches on that album that they may have not been able to afford otherwise. I can think of much more ridiculous and frivolous things that the government has wasted money on.
Finally, art, whatever the medium, brings a community together. It helps people identify with each other, to heal, and to grow. It creates conversation, and awareness. Art is a representation of the people who created it, whether it is within our city, our country, or the world at large.
What are the great times in history remembered for, and what is displayed in museums today? Their art, their artists. If emphasis is not placed on the arts, what will hang in museums when we are gone?