2017 the Year of Arts Access

One of the most important things about the power of art is it’s ability to break down walls and barriers. Whether it is a visit to a gallery, the admiration of a graffiti mural, the music accompanying you through your ear buds or a performance by an orchestra, artistic expression is able to expose an audience to the passion,

struggle and perspective of the artist, often without a single word or detailed explanation.

While the arts are able to illuminate and educate, our pricing and programming continues to erect a major barriers to participation, keeping people from the various forms of art that are meant to inspire us all. The unfortunate reality is that there are many Canadians who feel disengaged from and left out of the local and national arts community.

So, the question is, how can we make Canadians feel more engaged with the country’s creative community? 2017, the year-long celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, is promising to provide a number of opportunities for Canadians from B.C. to Nunavut to P.E.I. to become reconnected with the country’s multifaceted cultural initiatives. While I am excited about the sesquicentennial celebration, the efforts for unity will be limited if we cannot truly address the issues of access.

In 2012, a national survey found 93 percent of respondents strongly believed, "Arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions.” However, there is a challenge when it comes to Canadians who live outside of major cities enjoying access and opportunity.

Which brings to mind the importance of inclusion. Put simply, people need to feel connected and drawn to attend art exhibits, orchestra events and dance performances, and one of the best ways to foster inclusive access is to offer diverse and affordable programming.

In a 2016 interview, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s artistic director André Lewis, who has been a champion of diversity and inclusion, said, “To be reflective of your community is fundamental.”  Those are significant words and part of an important mandate.

For Canadians, I think that reflection also must include and prioritize the contributions of native and indigenous artists. The modern indigenous arts community is calling for all Canadians to use our 150th anniversary to reimagine the relationship between the arts and people, as well as reimagine the relationship between the indigenous community and Canada itself.

This relationship is a focus of many interdisciplinary indigenous art projects currently underway.  Caroline Monnet, an indigenous artist, will present four paintings from her Modern Tipi series and a short video entitled “Mobilize.”

“I am hoping that with my work, I can create experiences that people can relate to—whether they are Indigenous or not,” said Monnet.

Meanwhile, interdisciplinary indigenous artist Soleil Launière’s latest performance piece, “Mashinnu,” is a one- woman show including elements of dance that explores the duality of the multifaceted Canadian identity.

“Sometimes when you’re thinking about Aboriginal art, you’re thinking about something that’s very old, and old forms of art […] [People] expect something very traditional and we are not there anymore,” Launière said.

Whether it’s viewing an indigenous art exhibit or partaking in one of the many arts and cultural events slated to celebrate the sesquicentennial, 2017 is the year for Canadians to reintroduce themselves to the country’s robust, diverse and inspiring creative community. Get out there, Canada!