A new mayor for Montreal: Impact on culture and Montreal artists

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Montreal, November 4, 2013 – On Sunday, November 3, 2013, Montrealers elected a new mayor, Denis Coderre, whose mandate is likely to come under close scrutiny. Looking beyond the lack of citizen engagement in Montreal (with voter turnout at just 39%) and the task the new mayor will face to rebuild the city’s credibility, what does this mean for Montreal’s cultural scene and artists?

Granted, Mr. Coderre took part in the recent debate initiated by Culture Montréal on October 1 about the issues affecting culture and the arts, but he failed to shine in expediting priorities, particularly the question of funding from the City’s Arts Council, to which he simply replied not to expect any miracles and to stay realistic as is always the case when it comes to culture. Now the question is what he concretely plans to do with the arts and culture issue. What will his first decisions be when it comes to supporting, recognizing and funding this area?

We fear that an (overly) market-driven vision of arts and culture will prevent the new administration from appreciating the social dimension of the arts, the role that culture plays in building a common identity for Montrealers of all origins, and how it can encourage community development.

This is the key issue at hand, with artists facing an increasingly alarming reality, especially in certain fields: they are not only trying to make a living from their art but are also struggling to gain recognition because they lack networks and resources. Even if Diversité Artistique Montréal (DAM) and its partners (MAC, MAI, Vision Diversité, etc.) provide guidance to many artists and help them to integrate, the fact remains that being an artist means living a precarious existence, chasing after contracts and being underpaid for the work they do. There are too many institutions, venues especially bars and event organizers, including benefit events, that call on artists without being able to (or intending) to pay them, which tips the balance even more precariously. Would a plumber come out to your home, even just for a 10-minute job, and leave without being paid? Not likely!

The City of Montreal and its mayor have a social, moral and political responsibility to demonstrate a greater commitment to protecting, funding and recognizing Montreal’s professional artists of all origins, who all help to raise the city’s profile and make it so attractive. Just imagine for a second what Montreal would be like without its festivals, shows, diversity and other underground scenes that make the city one of the World’s top destinations. How would City Hall and Montreal Tourism be able to promote the city then?
Yes, Mr. Coderre, the City of Montreal needs a strong and committed mayor, not only to purge it of its sins, but to help it prosper in a climate of respect for all workers and citizens, including artists, so that our city can keep its head held high when it comes to cultural and artistic influence —— the very fabric that makes Montreal such a wonderful place to live. Here at DAM, we expect actions that, like everybody knows, speak louder than any words ever can.

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