Like sports and recreation, arts deserve support, too

Dear editor,
Recently in the Comox Valley we were treated to Elevate the Arts, an initiative of some very dedicated art lovers.

Dear editor,Recently in the Comox Valley we were treated to Elevate the Arts, an initiative of some very dedicated art lovers.All kinds of artists and artisans performed and presented their works of art and crafts. Some artists were there to demonstrate the techniques of producing their art.This whole event was a wonderful display of partly spontaneous artistic expression. The event drew people into downtown Courtenay and couldn’t help but improve traffic into local businesses.It seems that the value of art is often tied to its economic impact, and that’s fine. Art through time is often, if not always, a way of connecting with the gods or symbolically producing prosperity in the hope that it will become real in the next fall harvest.Art has also been used as a means of enhancing or questioning authority and power. Its importance waxes and wanes.In a time like ours, art works, paintings, sculptures, etc., become commodities like everything else and some art works sell in the millions of dollars. In some senses, art is big business and it is affected by economic ups and downs as much as anything else is, but it has always played a major symbolic role in our lives, beyond its economic importance.To think about how important art is to us, just think about no music (and poetry), no performance, no entertainment, no paintings, pictures, photos, sculptures, (building) design, floral arrangements, prints, clothing with artistic design, among many expressions. Marketing and business in general use art extensively.Given art’s historical importance and contemporary relevance, it’s always seemed strange to me how reluctant governments have been to support the arts and culture unless they can show a direct link to their economic impact.All three levels of government in Canada dedicate miniscule proportions of their annual operating and capital budgets to the arts although some communities are much better at it than others. All levels of government spend relatively much larger proportions of their budgets on sports and recreational activities and facilities.I’m not suggesting that the arts should be funded at the same level as libraries, sand playing fields and golf courses, but, in a real sense, the arts are just as essential to good community health as sports and recreation. All governments have supported the arts and culture in the past. We are very grateful for this.Over the almost 40 years of the existence of the Comox Valley Art Gallery, all levels of government have extended to it their financial support. Local governments, the CVRD, the Town of Comox but particularly the City of Courtenay have all supported the Gallery. The City has most recently supported the Comox Valley Art Gallery with special funding allowing it to continue operations, but by and large, funding is usually ad hoc, project-based and insecure.Governments need to step up and support major arts organizations in the same way they support sports and recreation, not necessarily at the same level, but in the same way, using budgetary line items or creating services.  Roger G. AlbertEditor’s note: Roger G. Albert is the president of the Comox Valley Art Gallery.