I spent the first 25 years of my adult life as a music industry business magazine journalist and editor, attending untold hundreds of concerts in Toronto and Vancouver (my hearing sadly suffers a bit as a result). Since opting out of the biz in the early 2000s, I've found I have little residual desire to sit in audiences and be entertained.
Instead, I've found much joy, satisfaction and personal growth through participation in various arguably "creative" real-time mind-body practices, among them insight meditation, yoga and 5Rhythms dance. In recent years, I've faced my fears and jumped into (what was first a huge challenge and is now an utter delight) singing circles led by gifted locals like Alanda Carver, Phil Rossner and Marjorie Baskerville. Yes, I wholeheartedly respect all who pursue the arts as a vocation and passion. Yet, as you'll see in my answer to question #4, I also urge everyone to to tap their wellsprings of personal creativity and express themselves. As I've been told by many teachers over the last 20 years, practice may not make perfect, but it helps. :-)
1. What benefits do the arts bring to our communities?
Individual artists and such organizations as the Sooke Arts Council, the Sooke Fine Arts Society, our community choirs, the Harmony Project, the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sooke Folk Music Society, Sooke Writers Collective and the EMCS Society (which runs Sooke’s one major performance venue, the EMCS Community Theatre) are at the heart of Sooke’s cultural life. These groups allow residents to participate in the arts either directly or as audience members, and the majority of us here do so one way or another. The arts, of course, spark civic pride and substantial economic benefits ($177.3 million in GDP activity in the CRD according to the 2012 Greater Victoria Economic Activity Study).
2. What role do you believe municipal governments should have in supporting the arts?
The District of Sooke has traditionally backed the arts through its Community Grants program and via automatic line-item funding in support of (to cite a recently approved addition to the annual budget) the Sooke Fine Arts Show. This is modest partial funding that gives organizations a head start as they seek matching grants and funding from other sources. The District’s Sooke Program for the Arts (SPA) committee continues to do an impressive job with various initiatives and projects; in the works this year and next will be painted crosswalks, transit shelter photography, a new community notice board and more public art.
3. Given that your municipality is committed to investing in the CRD Arts Development Service, do you support your municipality's decision to contribute to the service? Why?
Approximately $5 per taxpayer per year is a smart investment that gives Sooke the opportunity to augment Community Grants with our fair share of the $2.18 million in annual CRD operating grants for local arts groups. Also available are a range of project, equity and incubator grants, as well as opportunities to add Sooke festivals and arts events to regional advertising and promotional campaigns.
4. Is there anything else regarding the arts that you would like to communicate to voters?
There was talk in Sooke Arts & Beautification Committee meetings I attended circa 2013/14 of a local arts education centre and gallery (i.e., a humbler, funkier Sooke version of Qualicum’s Old School House Arts Centre). The idea unfortunately never took flight, but I’m sure the day will come when new champions revive it and track down a suitable home (the former Mulligans at the edge of John Phillips Memorial Park was the target back then) for such an essential community space.
Also, as an aside, I’d like to echo others far wiser than me who’ve said the ability to make “art” — to sing, dance, paint and creatively express ourselves in any number of ways — is a human birthright. I was a music industry journalist earlier in my career, and have long relished the genius of others with my eyes, ears and clapping hands. In recent years, however, I have been working to overcome the belief that I have no creative abilities myself. Teachers gave me “art” and “singing” wounds when I was a child by telling me I wasn’t any good at either.
To my great pleasure, I have been jumping into “all voices welcome and accepted” song circles where we’re invited to sing for the sheer joy of it. Through patient practice and growing confidence, I’ve discovered that I do, in fact, have a fairly decent voice. I recommend the documentary The Singing Revolution and urge everyone to tap into greater health and happiness through creative expression, bum notes and all.