Federal money for the arts to match private money for the arts

It took a while, but the federal government finally seems ready to invest a bit of money in the Quebec arts scene.  In fact, the department of Canadian Heritage is giving $4,222,861 to Montreal organizations like the National Theatre School, Les Grands ballets canadiens de Montréal and The Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre.  They are doing so through the Endowment Incentives component of the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program.


The National Theatre school is scheduled to receive funding

Arts funding, particularly in Quebec, is always a welcome thing.  The industry employs quite a few people here as the Conservatives found out when cuts to funding may just have cost them their majority government last election.  It’s also a good thing considering having any type of job is becoming a rarity these days.

Does this mean that the government has changed its tune towards the arts?  Or could this be the continuation of a pattern that they started this past February when they replaced the Trade Routes program that helps Canadian artists travel abroad with an “Arts Prize” to be given out to artists from around the world by the people behind Toronto’s corporate-funded Luminato Festival.  This pro-corporate model was also apparent when the government refused to give extra funding to the CBC and instead considered bailing out CanWest Global.

Could that be what’s happening here?  Well, these investments aren’t donations to arts organizations in a vacuum.  The funds are to match donations by individuals, companies and community groups.  In fact, in its press release, the government claims that “this initiative complements other measures taken by our Government to encourage private-sector participation in arts funding.”

This is not new investment in artists that don’t have funding to begin with.  While it’s certainly a good thing that Harper’s government wants to “ensure that these organizations continue to enrich our lives for many years to come,” the fact that it took so long to get to this point could mean that it may take even longer for new artists that don’t have backing already to get some startup cash.

When someone or a group of people is doing art that challenges our corporate culture or even the capitalist system in general, government funding is usually the only outlet for them to be able to survive and do their work without changing it.  Now that the government is playing politics with culture and insisting on a public/private model instead of funding the arts out of obligation to our culture, then what chance will underground artists have in the future?

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