Municipal elections 2021: What can candidates do to save the arts?

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In the context of an exceptional election – given the devastation the pandemic has wrought on the arts and culture sectors – the arts community is demonstrating an equally exceptional determination to air grievances and make sure arts issues number among the priorities of politicians.

We have heard some concrete and specific announcements from the major parties, including two popular favourites, Projet Montréal and Ensemble Montréal, whose leaders took part in the traditional debate organized by Culture Montréal.

Incumbent mayor Valérie Plante emphasizes the urgency of protecting artist studios from real estate speculation. She cites the recent decision of the City of Montréal to allocate $30 million for the sustainability and development of these workshops. The city is also pledging $1 million per year to support small artistic venues and $12 million for the Maison de la chanson francophone project at the Saint-Sulpice library. Projet Montréal also intends to double the funding allocated to the creation of murals, subsidize the soundproofing of alternative venues, set up storage space for events in the Quartier des spectacles and support the creation of an innovation space for anglophone theatre companies.

For his part, Denis Coderre pledges to “obtain casual employment status for artists and artisans to ensure them of job security during in-between periods.” He wants to introduce a tax on billboards to finance culture, as is done in Toronto. He believes this measure could bring in additional income of $10 million. Ensemble Montréal also announced its commitment to accelerate the construction of the Indigenous architectural complex long called for by the DestiNATIONS organization. This is also one of the central recommendations made by Culture Montréal. It is supported by all the candidates – as are several other recommendations, including increasing the budget of the Conseil des arts de Montréal and holding a meeting of Rendez-vous Montréal, métropole culturelle.

There are major commitments also from new parties. Mouvement Montreal, led by ex-footballer Balarama Holness, wants to establish a grant program for native arts and culture and also proposes to offer tax incentives to cultural organizations that implement measures aimed at including people from minorities and Indigenous people in their programs, projects and boards of directors. For its part, Action Montreal, led by Gilbert Thibodeau, is particularly committed to making the Bonsecours Market a major cultural and artistic venue and to encouraging artists and artisans from Montreal and all of Quebec, as well as international artists, to display in this historic building. Montreal 2021, led by Luc Ménard, proposes to follow the example of the music education program El Sistema, created in Venezuela to support the social integration of disadvantaged youth. This party believes that “the establishment of an orchestra thought of as a model of community involvement could, for young people, address issues such as bullying and violence.” He wants to promote the use of performance halls at cultural centres by any organization offering a program inspired by El Sistema.

Culture Montréal launches the debate

As in every electoral gathering, the Culture Montréal organization sent 40 recommendations to candidates concerning central cultural and artistic issues. For those in charge of this group, “making room for culture in electoral debates means ensuring that future mandates, both federal and municipal, will actively contribute to placing the arts and culture at the heart of Montreal’s revival.”

“For the cultural sector, getting out of the health crisis will already be a considerable challenge, but far from the only one,” says Liza Frulla and Valérie Beaulieu, president and general manager, respectively, of Culture Montréal, on the occasion of the unveiling of the platform La culture fait campagne pour la relance at the ­Centre Phi at the beginning of September.

Among the main concerns, Culture Montréal urges the City of Montreal to step up its efforts to carry out the Indigenous cultural and tourist embassy project, the mission of which will be to promote awareness of Indigenous arts and culture. There is a need for precise accounting on diversity in artistic projects. To remedy this shortcoming, it recommends undertaking a study on this subject and implementing an action plan based on the findings and recommendations.

More specifically, Culture Montréal is putting forward several proposals for tax measures, including a special tax on billboards, based on the polluter-pays principle and dedicated to the funding of local cultural activities. Another proposal is the introduction of a reduced property tax rate for artistic collectives, thus making it possible to maintain artist studios in central neighborhoods.

 

CAM, Maison Théâtre and… hip-hop

Of course, an increase in the budget of the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM) is a usual flagship recommendation of Montreal cultural circles. Also, the organization insists on the need to strengthen theatre for young audiences by allowing Maison Théâtre to have a new site conducive to its development. New urban artistic trends are not foreign to the Culture Montréal platform. The organization recommends supporting the creation of the first hip-hop cultural centre downtown.

Regarding film studios, Culture Montréal stresses the need to support the efforts of the Bureau du cinema et de la television du Québec (BCTQ), the private sector and the Government of Quebec in the effort to double the area of the studio space. And to conclude, Culture Montréal emphasizes the importance of organizing the next Rendez-vous ­Montréal, métropole culturelle – the 2020 Rendez-vous having been postponed because of the pandemic.

To consult the complete list of Culture Montréal recommendations, go to www.culturemontreal.ca

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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