As the Toronto Arts Council faces cuts to grants, rap star Kardinal Offishall looks back at the Fresh Arts program funded by Ontario's NDP government in the early 90s and directed by the TAC, and how important it was in establishing him as an artist.
The program, aimed at talented young people in marginalized communities, turned out other successful grads like Jully Black and Baby Blue Sound Crew.
"Music was my love.
I didn't know I was going to be able to do it as a profession - especially for this long - and be able to pay my bills, my mortgage, my car, travel the world and support my family.
The Fresh Arts program, partly funded and shaped by the Toronto Arts Council, was pivotal in my career. There were so many of us that came out of that program.
Almost everybody I know has received some kind of financial support. I don't know anyone in the hip-hop and R&B community who didn't have some kind of support system somewhere, financially and in terms of mentorship. In earlier times for me, it was funding through the Arts Council, and then Akon helped me out.
It's definitely necessary to spend money on the arts. I was really torn up when I heard they wanted to take music out of public schools. We have to foster people's love of music from a very young age.
No, the arts budget isn't a good thing to cut. It's been proven that when you invest in the arts you reduce a lot of [bad] behaviour, because programs for kids means they have less time in the streets to waste on crazy stuff. Making cuts will create more expenses later on.
And look at our biggest exports in terms of acting, music and video directors. We're generating a lot of interest around the world - people wanting to come see what Toronto's about. Cut other places before the arts."