Cultural philanthropy : the biggest challenge to tackle for arts and culture?

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Montreal, January 18, 2013 – Crisis is once again at the heart of debate on funding for arts and culture in Quebec, as one of its leading organizations cut its workforce. The announcement of 400 job losses at Cirque du Soleil saddens as much as it raises doubts and confusion once again from those who are involved in the spreading of cultural influence, and therefore well-being, every day. We should not be mistaken by falling into the ever-present economic trap. Aside from the financial gains they yield, the arts and culture are first and foremost the heart and soul of our lives, underlining our shared existence as well as the social dynamism of our neighborhoods, and producing emotions that guide our positive vision of the future and put smiles on our faces!

So how to stop the continuous and insidious financial hemorrhaging that affects our jobs when governmental contradictions occur repeatedly? The solution may lie in cultural philanthropy, an issue to be addressed by a task force led by Pierre Bourgie and officially launched by Prime Minister Pauline Marois last Friday at the Musée des Beaux Arts, in the presence of many cultural actors and philanthropists. Giving the arts the same amount of respect as an entrepreneurial or familial success, and supporting culture when we have the means to participate as either a patron or a citizen; these are altruistic values that we should be encouraging and, above all, respecting, without resorting to a transfer of responsibility from the government towards private sector (a promise reiterated by the prime minister and culture minister Maka Kotto).

If the actions already being taken by a few individuals confirm the existence of such generosity, mobilizing citizens and companies of all sizes in a province with the lowest rate of generosity in the country is not an easy task. If the wealthy are often more forward-thinking in this area because they have been sensitive to the cause for a long time and are educated on the workings of the tax system, how does one encourage entrepreneurs in Quebec and, more broadly, all Quebecois, to donate their time and money in order to preserve that which encompasses our uniqueness, our wealth, our greatness and our identity? The challenge is enormous, and is worth the effort of writing this press release so that every concerned voice can speak out with more audacity, more of a creative vision for a future rich in culture and thus also rich in financial capital, more of a capacity to believe in the Other that is the creator of art and culture, or simply more individuality in a movement and collective citizen model which will, in the end, educate Quebec and every Quebecois on the richness of being themselves, while being, in a sense, an artist.

Diversité artistique Montréal is therefore calling on every writer, every pen, every keyboard, every thinker to emerge from their state of torpor as they would leave home one May morning with a pot in hand, to write or announce to their neighbour the baker, their computer specialist cousin, their boss enriched from their own labour: “Be generous and selfless, help arts and culture, be a cultural philanthropist, and we are all better because of it!” Cultural philanthropy is a significant issue for our province, a fact of which we should be conscious in order to secure a sustainable financial system for the sector of arts and culture. This is the only way to keep the smiles on our faces.

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