Vancouver's senior cultural planner has told council that the city's "great art" is sometimes better known elsewhere than it is at home.
"And so we need to really promote it," Richard Newirth said. "We need to promote it both locally, nationally, and internationally."
Newirth made the remark during an October 23 presentation to council's city finances and services committee about Vancouver's cultural plan.
"To achieve our goals, we really need to focus on four things: innovation, engagement, resilience, and transformation," he said.
He cited five "strategic directions" that will be emphasized from 2014 to 2018:
• Foster cultural leadership
• Increase participation and engagement
• Provide sustainable support programs
• Optimize city investment
• Invest in creative economy
“This is a strategic framework—and how these policies are actually implemented is going to take a bit of time," Newirth said. "And we will be coming back and checking in with you [council] on each of the pieces...We will be doing consultations on every piece of work that we do.”
Culture boosts B.C. economy
Citing Statistics Canada data, Newirth's PowerPoint presentation notes that the creative sector contributed $5.24 billion to the provincial gross domestic product in 2009.
Drawing on research by Hill Strategies, Newirth told council that there are 25,000 cultural workers in the region, which accounts for 7.7 percent of all jobs. Nearly two-thirds of B.C.'s cultural workers live in Greater Vancouver.
"We are certainly hopeful that what we do will enable us to open up the doors to new and emerging organizations by really giving us the opportunity, first of all, to spend the time that’s needed, as well as to allocate the resources that are necessary," Newirth told council.
He revealed that next week, there will be a call for arts groups to apply for $4.5 million in community-amenity contributions from Rize Alliance's mixed-use development at the corner of Kingsway and East Broadway.
In addition, the public will soon learn about new nonprofit tenants in city-leased space at the CBC building and in the city's cultural space in the Woodward's building.
Arts enhances well-being
Newirth's presentation underscores that participation in arts and culture "has a strong connection with better health, more volunteering and greater satisfaction with life". As well, culture was characterized as a critical component to building a "vibrant, livable, and healthy city".
Vancouver has the highest per capita concentration of artists in Canada.
Newirth's PowerPoint presentation states that there are 173 galleries and museums, 106 other exhibition and performance spaces, and 131 artists' studios and workshops in Vancouver. The city owns 56 of these cultural spaces.
According to a 2009 Hill Strategies report, Vancouver ranked ahead of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Calgary in civic grants per capita. Vancouver was second in cultural investment per capita among those cities.
Moving from consumption to engagement
The growth of the cultural economy has corresponded with increased demand for experiences as opposed to the mere consumption of goods.
A 2007 Vancity report called The Power of the Arts in Vancouver: Creating a Great City described in detail how greater emphasis on the arts in the post-industrial era could enhance the community's sense of identity while fuelling the economy in a more sustainable way.
Newirth touched on this theme in his presentation, noting that the city's approach is really about building resilience.
One of the slides highlighted a need for paradigm shifts from growth to sustainable growth, and from consumption to engagement.
Council also approved arts grants
Council also voted in favour of a staff recommendation to provide $250 grants to 98 organizations, which had already received approval for operating assistance.
In addition, council approved a staff recommendation for a $238,100 grant to Vantage Point.
"The shared goal of the partnership with Vantage Point is to cultivate excellence in non-profit leadership towards strengthening and creating positive change in our communities," a staff report states. "The partnership allows the City to lever its resources strategically (funds with knowledge experts) and have a greater impact in capacity building for the sector with the intent of making our cultural organizations more sustainable over time."
With files from Yolande Cole.