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Saskatchewan Living Arts Congress

I’m at the Saskatchewan  Arts Congress, and like usual probably talking too much, even though I told the Pat Close story on myself encouraging me to consider the Zen Art of Meeting Attendance……sit quietly until somebody else says what you are thinking. I was the second President of the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance, and organizer of the first Arts Congress. I’m at home here, and too many people remember me, as the number of people attending under the age of 30 is miniscule. I think of Windscript and I think of the Youth Mentorship program at Arts & Cultural Industry Association of Manitoba, all good. An easy start here to consider for the next Congress is requiring every registrant to bring someone under 30 to the congress and pay their half price registration fee.

Anxiety is the dominant mood in the room, as a new funding vehicle called Creative Saskatchewan (CS) been created to monetize SK Cultural products, with priority given to producers of content that can be sold and create a desirable increase in the economy. It’ only a year old and there are some pretty big bumps in the road. As long as the CS mandate is clear, there is equal access, and a well communicated application and assessment process, this is a good thing. There are advantages in adding a cultural industry funder that I know from my work in Manitoba, and when the wrinkles are ironed out,  communications improved, and funding cycles completed, anxiety levels should come down.

More troubling is new language and the implication of new directions at the Saskatchewan Arts Board (SAB) which would add marketability to assessment criteria, which is integral,  mandated, and suitable for CS but not for the SAB. To oversimplify – I see (there are always more) jobs for arts and culture; a) community, health and wellbeing. b)pure/impure art and c)cultural  industries. There will always be overlap, boundary pushing, even some redundancy which is ok. My concern is with mandate leak, with the tendency of one of the three  to take on aspects of one of the other jobs. Once there was talk about integrating the community arts or at least bringing them closer to the SAB. Now there is talk about marketing and saleability to SAB grant criteria, which is the CS mandate leaking into the SAB. It is easy to see the Arts Board, maybe the hardest  “circle” to define, understand, and quantify, wants to look for easier measurement by borrowing from the other rather two, rather than make the important “art for humanity’s sake” argument at the heart of their mandate.

I’m not much of a visual thinker but here is an illustration of what I see, or at the least the beginnings of how I think about the relationship of Saskatchewan arts & culture in what I’ve seen and heard today.

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