We had a great time at ART on the BALLOT at SummerWorks yesterday. The Torontoist posted their highlights of the event – What Mayoral Candidates Want to Know About Art – and below we have a recap from ArtsVote volunteer Tara Mazurk. Do you have any thoughts you want to add in response to the questions at ART on the BALLOT? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday, ArtsVote Toronto and SummerWorks gave Toronto’s mayoral candidates an opportunity to be on the other end of the Q&A process. It encouraged our potential mayors to craft critical and insightful questions for our arts community, and in turn, receive the inside scoop on arts policy and our sector’s civic imprint. Our panel of artists and arts administrators included Joe Lobko, Sarah Garton Stanley, Shannon Litzenberger, Yasmin Parodi, and Dalton Higgins. Present candidates included Olivia Chow, James French, Ari Goldkind, David Soknacki, and Sketchy the Clown. Additional questions for the panel were also received by Rob Ford, John Tory, Michael Nicula, and Jeff Billard.
A major focus of the session included measurement strategies for the arts. Primarily, the flanks of social and economic impact. While the two are more integrative than opposing, many of our panelists noted that the arguments made for social impact and well-being are often lost in the mass of corporate language and funding imperatives. Sarah pointedly noted the complex public funding terrain that artists and arts organizations have to navigate. Through the barrier of monetary censorship, “it’s not that we do not want to speak up, it’s that we can’t afford to.” While the economic argument is a critical factor in how City Council allocates public resources, all panelists stressed the importance of alternative social sector measurements including health, education, and community belonging. The recently released Toronto Arts Facts gives us a little more fuel for advocating both our social and economic contribution. For a future mayor who acknowledges why the arts exist and builds genuine and compassionate relationships, Shannon was hopeful that our City would be treated “as a person, not as a corporation”.
The geographic arrangement of our City was also a hot topic for discussion, as panelists underscored the diversity of Toronto’s neighborhoods in terms of live/work space for artists, affordability of venues and programs, and integration of the arts into urban design. While Toronto’s Official Plan puts a strong focus on downtown revitalization and the City-professed priority neighbourhoods, panelists explored how Toronto could build connections across development epicenters and our unique communities. Joe emphasized the capabilities of local stewardship, the activation of public and ‘forgotten’ spaces, and an integrated transit system to instill civic pride in the City’s diverse geographic areas.
So how do we continue to grow understanding between our mayoral candidates and the arts community? For Yasmin, her strategy would be to simply take our future mayor to the heart of our work and get them to experience a day in the life of an artist, audience member, or manager. For Dalton, the fusion between art, life, and cultural tradition is inseparable; we need to find evolving models where the City experiences and reflects the diversity of our City.
Save-the-date for the Mayoral Arts Debate on September 29 at 12 noon, when we’ll hear from some of the leading candidates on their visions for arts policy in Toronto.