Task Force Visits Guelph

Guelph and area arts representatives recently had an opportunity to share their success stories and their challenges with members of the Arts in the Community Task Force. Established jointly by Ontario Arts Council and the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, the Task Force has been charged with initiating a consultation process “to find ways to make the arts more relevant and meaningful to the communities of Ontario.”

The Task Force members are all arts activists. Jane Marsland, formerly manager of the Danny Grossman Dance Company, is co-leader of Arts4Change, a Toronto-based arts community initiative; Graeme Page is a musician (founding member of the Canadian Brass), educator and arts consultant; and Stanley Shortt is a business and arts management consultant who has served as a volunteer on several arts boards. Together, they will have visited 25 Ontario communities seeking background information for a comprehensive action plan.

In Guelph, hosted by Guelph Arts Council, the Task Force met with 20 representatives of art organizations from the area. After hearing a long list of success stories, the Task Force listened attentively to descriptions of obstacles faced by all organizations. Lack of funding dollars topped the list, but other challenges were enumerated — ranging from amalgamation-related issues to the marginalization of the arts in our society as well as fierce competition for the shrinking fundraising dollar and the superhuman demands often placed on the staff of arts organizations. The Task Force also heard strong support for the role of arts service organizations (such as Guelph Arts Council), and the fact that their functions have even greater value at a time when other arts organizations are reeling from funding cuts and staff cutbacks.

Other areas of discussion during the Guelph gathering revolved around ways of addressing some of the challenges. Suggestions ranged from a “united fund for the arts” to various professional development opportunities and ongoing public education. There was also strong support for a continued arm’s-length role for Ontario Arts Council, ensuring that it can continue to support “R & D for the arts in Ontario.”

For more information, contact Guelph Arts Council at (519) 836-3280.