CREATING A POLICY FOR ARTS AND CULTURE
IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
A DRAFT PROPOSAL
Why a cultural policy is important
By adopting an arts and culture policy a government recognizes the contribution of the arts to the health and well-being of the community as well as playing a vital role in the economy.
Let us talk about cultural policy. It has three objectives. The first and most important one is to put the creator at the core of our concerns. The second one is to strengthen our Canadian identity. Finally, the third objective is to promote accessibility. We want to ensure that people not only appreciate what our creators do, but that they have access to their work.
(Canadian Conference of the Arts, Committee of the Whole, November 16, 2004).
A country’s culture is its body and soul, reflecting the way its inhabitants act and think. In its broadest sense, its culture includes a community’s knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, customs, traditions and distinctive institutions.—The Arts and Canada’s Cultural Policy, Government of Canada publication, 1999. You can read this entire document here:
Fundamental principles of a cultural policy
The following is freely adapted from the report of Groupe-conseil sur la politique culturelle du Quebec, Une politique de la culture et des arts, chaired by Roland Arpin, 1991
First: Culture is essential for the life of any society.
Second: Culture must be made accessible to all of that society’s citizens.
Third: The state has the obligation to support and to promote culture to the same degree that it does the society’s economic and social dimensions.
If imbalance is allowed to disturb harmony in the relationship between the economic, social, and cultural dimensions of a society, that society will find itself degraded and will rapidly become unjust.
A Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage
Essential to the implementation of a cultural policy is the formation of a Ministry of Arts, Culture, and Heritage. Following are the guiding principles of such a ministry:
1. Create cultural policies that encourage artistic creation, maintain professional quality of cultural industries, protect intellectual property, and ensure the stability and blossoming of cultural institutions.
2. In order to encourage access to the life of culture, there must be heightened emphasis on arts education for adults and children, and a concerted program of cultural development in the regions that favours both local heritage and contemporary artistic works.
3. To increase the effectiveness of government in managing its cultural mission, the Ministry, working with the British Columbia Arts Council, should concentrate on elaborating the overall policy, filling the role of initiator, assuring support for the arts through its arms length arts council, and co-ordinating its partners in other ministries, local governments, arts organizations, the artistic milieu and the private sector.
Four questions about the British Columbia Arts Council
What would be the relationship between the British Columbia Arts Council and the new Ministry?
The British Columbia Arts Council is the arms length funding agency of the Ministry. The Ministry sets broad policies as listed in items 1, 2, & 3 above. The Arts Council processes applications and funds organizations and individual artists. Funding decisions are made completely independently of the Ministry.
How would that differ from what we have now?
It would seem that relations between the Arts Council and the Ministry have not always been productive or cordial. The roles of the Arts Council and the Ministry must be clearly defined.
What is wrong with what we have now in any case?
In our opinion, the main problem with the Arts Council at present is lack of sufficient funding. Again, arms length practices must be defined and adhered to, and a mutually productive relationship must be exercised. In accord with item number 2 above, the Arts Council should have a vigorous public presence.
Is the present structure of the British Columbia Arts Council viable? If not, how to amend?
The structure of the Arts Council seems to us to be viable. Appointment of Council members, however, should be based on recommendations from the arts community. This must be a transparent process.