There have been some positive developments, to be certain, like the newly formed arts council and a wider interest in fostering the arts. What seems to be missing, perhaps, is some grassroots support of our arts and culture scene - otherwise known as "what I can do to support the arts".
When was the last time you bought a piece of art from a local artist? When was the last time you bought a few mass-produced pieces instead, pieces that likely totalled the same as one original piece of art? When was the last time you attended a local concert? When was the last time you complained about local tickets prices and instead travelled south to see a bigger name, paid more, and invested in the southern Alberta arts and culture scene instead? And let's be clear here - I am not excluding myself. I am part of the problem, which also means I can be part of the solution.
We need to acknowledge some truths. If we want to see the local arts scene survive we need to invest in it - not just as corporations or governments but as individuals. If we want to see big name performers come here some day we have to support the current concerts and show that we have the market for those big names, and the appetite. We have to support our local musicians so that one day perhaps they can be those "big names", and we have to support our local literary scene if we want people who can continue to tell our story to the world. We cannot pay "lip service" to the value of the arts and then expect others to support it - we have to be the ones to take those steps.
There is every reason to believe things will improve given a revitalized city centre with more niche markets for artists to sell their works, but that is still some time away (and even then will only work if there are buyers willing to pay). This is why I say we are at a critical point - because we need to find a way to support the arts until things get better, or we will lose them to other communities where they can make art, and build lives.
What is the solution here? I won't pretend I know entirely, as I don't, but I think part of it lies with every single person who thinks that arts and culture matter. I think part of it has to do with understanding that paying $400 for an original piece of art supports an individual artist and our arts scene, while spending $400 for mass-produced prints pays a lot of profit to a company that is likely nowhere near to here. Just as small local niche businesses fight to survive as they battle it out with large franchises and corporations so too do artists, but the struggle in the arts is perhaps even more acute.
How do we support the arts, and ensure our local arts scene survives what may be some turbulent years ahead? I think it starts with that grassroots, individual support but I think it must go deeper and wider. I think we need to have a dialogue - a real dialogue - about the value of the arts scene, and what it offers, and what we are willing to do to make sure it remains part of our community. This discussion may not be easy, and it may take us to the dark side of the arts - but I hope one day it will lead us into the light.