Illustration by Adam McCauley
In a consumer-driven society, the power of creativity is often overlooked. But it's key, especially in hardscrabble times. Here are a few resolutions to get your artistic engines running in 09.
Come out of the closet
Whether you rent DVDs, are massively attached to your MP3 player, browse bookstores and blogs or know all on Nuit Blanche, we all depend on the arts to help us enjoy and understand life. Acknowledging this broad appeal is the first step to developing and protecting our creativity.
Put time on your side
Time spent with art - including music, sculpture, film, fiction and theatre, to name a few - is time pleasing yourself and learning about the human condition. Carve a couple of hours of weekly culture time into your daytimer or iCal to ensure that exercise for the soul actually happens.
Follow the money
Opponents of culture dis it as a costly, grant-dependent niche interest. Keep your eye on the cash flow and you get a very different view. The Conference Board of Canada reports that the arts generated $84.6 billion last year, contributing a total of 1.1 million jobs to our national economy. Use this data to fight arts cutbacks. The arts are a money generator, not a drain.
Be true to your schools
The U.S.'s National Governors Association reports that universal arts education in public schools raises test scores, bolsters self-esteem, sparks student engagement and improves workforce readiness. Help make sure all Toronto kids get access to arts ed: write local school boards and Ontario's minister of education about these salient facts.
Nurture your inner artist
Knit a scarf, type on Twitter, sketch in a notebook. If you already have a favourite medium, acknowledge its importance in your life. If you don't, try a class or workshop to discover where your creativity might lie. Making anything - whether it's meaning, movies or muffins - is a worthy and rewarding act.
Demand equal rights
Sick of high museum admission or concert ticket fees? Want to see more cultural products that reflect Toronto's diversity? Write the heads of publicly funded galleries/orchestras/theatres to urge that equity and affordability be rated as high as things like star-chitecture and society-page pics. And cc your MP and culture ministers.
Mix it up
Treasure your usual cultural haunts, but explore the start-ups popping up around town. They'll introduce you to new stuff and might just become your new favourite places. Don't know where to start? Pretend you're a tourist and visit the critics' picks from a variety of local media. NOW's Best Of 2008 issue, published December 25, is a handy place to start.
Speak truth to power
Gallery- or concertgoers feel they have to be nice about what's on view even if they don't like it. Trust your gut, and if a piece of art, music or writing isn't doing it for you, move along until you find something that does. The more honest we are about art, the more genuine - and rewarding - our response to it will be.
Sink the cynicism
This one's for arts and culture veterans grown jaded by behind-the-scenes politics and production problems. When you feel deep cynicism coming on, remember that the arts really do enliven the lives of millions of Canadians. Then take a break to seek out some art that speaks to your own life, and return to your work hard-headed but not hard-hearted.