Why Grants Remain Essential in Canada (#3)

So, I’ve started writing grants for the production of my play, Stormbound (Crystal Ice Reflections). For those of you thinking about self-producing in Canada, grants are pretty essential, if not downright absolutely necessary. Even folk I know who start out saying that they’re not interested in grants, somewhere along the line, when working on theatre, film or any other artistic project, somehow find their way to the Canada Council for the Arts, and or one or more of the other arts funding bodies throughout the country.

Canada is a relatively small country. Especially compared to our neighbour to the south. We don’t have a star system. That’s obvious. And some independent art will appeal to a niche audience that can’t always solely support the art being created. But should all Canadian art be considered niche? And what exactly is the value we put on our own creations? How valuable do we think it is?

“Canada has no identity and never has had an identity.

– Marshall McLuhan

Value, of course, has very little to do with how many people consume a piece of art, or even with the taste of the viewing public. Power brokers (usually not Canadian), often tell us what’s “good”, “hot”, “relevant” and “worthy” of our attention and dollars. Also, in Canada we are overwhelmed by the influence of the Americans and the Brits, and see anything Canadian made as second rate at best, and irrelevant at worst. But how then, do we ever build a Canadian culture? … For at least six decades this has been a question within artistic circles. That it continues to be a question in 2018, speaks to some kind of pervasive inferiority complex that we English Canucks just can’t seem to shake. The Québécois don’t have this problem. I grew up in Montréal, and the French Canadians celebrated, and continue to celebrate, their homegrown talent, whether or not they are celebrated in English Canada, the States, France, or anywhere else. We in English Canada could take a lesson from this by going to see, consuming, and generally supporting as much homegrown art as possible.

“English Canada doesn’t have a culture – I’m going to give it one.”

– Pierre Trudeau

There is an abundance of cultural influences in Canada, and the possibility of many artistic voices to explore. Why must some of our biggest, and best funded, theatres focus mostly on writing created by artists in other countries at other times? How can we ever see who we are as a nation, if who we are is rarely reflected back to us? How much guts or creativity does it take to produce season after season of works that have been done and done and done, and who’s greatest productions are likely decades behind us? What kind of country does not celebrate itself? I definitely think there is, and always will be, a place for the English classics, and for American art and entertainment. I appreciate the English classics. And I love a lot of American Art and entertainment. Who doesn’t? But why must they override the development of Canadian works, in Canada?

I guess this is why we still need grants: for those of us still hopeful enough to believe that Canadian artistic voices are vital to the soul of a nation; for those of us willing to fail, and fail again, and hopefully fail better in our Canadian artistic pursuits; grants fill the void left by our seeming collective fear of putting the creative works of our own artists front and centre on all of our major stages.

Thanks for reading…


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