Arts Investment No Dilemma

Re: Theatre Dilemma No Act, The Barrie Examiner

81% of Ontarians agree that governments should invest public money in the arts, according to survey results recently released by the Ontario Arts Council.

The survey, conducted by Environics Research Group, found that nearly all Ontarians (95%) believe the arts enrich our quality of life, and that the success of Canadian singers, writers, actors, painters and other artists give us all a sense of national pride.

Similar numbers are found in a study done for the Department of Canadian Heritage. 9 in 10 Canadians (or more) agree that arts and culture are important to our community, and that cultural infrastructure, like libraries and theatres, contribute significantly to our quality of life. We believe our artists hold their own internationally. And 88% said governments should make sure that “there are enough arts and cultural facilities to serve the public.”

Arts and culture are not frills. They are more than a vital part of our community. They are integral to our success in the new creative economy.

The Conference Board of Canada “estimates that the economic footprint of Canada’s culture sector was $84.6 billion in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s total real GDP, including direct, indirect, and induced contributions. Culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs in 2007.” So it is not surprising that all levels of government, including our own, have identified arts and culture as an important economic driver.

New research from Hill Strategies pegs consumer spending on cultural goods and services at three times the cultural spending of all levels of government combined. In other words, every dollar our city invests in the arts will stimulate $3 of spending in our city.

A recent local study concluded that each ticket to the downtown theatre will infuse an additional $38 (on top of ticket price) into our downtown economy. The theatre will have a direct and immediate impact on job creation in the restaurant, hotel and service industries. That economic stimulus means our city can rely less on the residential tax base.

If we fail to invest in arts and culture now, or if we fail to support our growing arts community, we will lose more than our talent and a few shows. We will lose professionals, like doctors, whose families are more concerned with live theatre than operating theatres. Without the necessary infrastructure, we will hinder our own growth and fall behind in the creative economy.

No other city our size – let alone the size we are mandated by the province to reach rather soon – is without a professional performing arts centre. Our new arts centre at Five Points will attract diverse professionals and new businesses to our city. It will increase tourism as travellers select destinations for culture as well as recreation.

More than that, it will be an open and friendly cultural hub at the heart of our city. It will be a place for individuals and families to explore imagination and dreams, to spark and nourish the creativity upon which our economy increasingly depends.

damian lopes
Barrie Arts & Culture Council

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