Do Artists Deserve This??

If you are in the arts, you’ve probably already seen this video clip from Sun Media, where Krista Erickson interviews Margie Gillis, a well-respected dancer, teacher and choreographer from Quebec.

In the interview, Erickson essentially broadsides Gillis, informing her that she has received over a million dollars worth of funding and asking her why she deserved that money.

Gillis does the best she can, but honestly, she flounders.

First of all, I just want to say that I’m pretty shocked that such a media outlet even exists in Canada. It’s our version of Fox News, and I honestly didn’t think Canadians would give something like this the time of day, because I see it as being news for the sake of riling people up, fear-mongering, and as an outlet for being judgmental, and I think, generally, that we Canadians are more liberal and open-minded than that. Rant over.

When I watched this, a couple things came up for me:

First of all, Gllis is from Quebec, which is the province to live in in Canada if you want to be an artist. They actually support the arts there, so to call her out as being representative of the amount of funding that the average artist in Canada receives is misleading.

Having said that, the issue at stake here is: do the arts deserve to be publicly funded?

It’s easier to say yes to organizations like Headlines Theatre, who go into communities and work with them towards healing issues that plague that community. What about Green Thumb? They take plays on the road to remote communities where children wouldn’t normally get exposed to theatre–and the shows they produce have meaning and generate discussion–they are not just for entertainment.

Those ones are easy. You can establish a direct link between the company and the good they do in the community.

But what about arts where that link is more tenuous? What about the more abstract arts?

I get that, as artists, our brains don’t do as well with the business side of our work. But I think, in order to survive, that we have to start to be able to speak the language of business. I’m not saying that Margie Gillis was not blindsided, and I’m certainly not saying that what Erickson did was right. But I am saying that Gillis could have been better prepared.

We all could be. What kind of benefits do your company or arts biz generate besides the joy and entertainment you bring to people’s lives? Are there spinoff benefits? When you put on a play, how many people do you employ? Do the folks that come to see your play patronize local restaurants and bars before and after the show? Are there other, long-term benefits to the neighborhood? Can you get stories and testimonials, can you generate reports that prove this?

These things are what business and government are looking for. Once we start to speak their language, we may be able to actually have a dialogue.


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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 5

  1. I like your point of view. Although I like to think that art doesn’t have to be useful or profitable (it sure can be), it’s wise to learn the business language just to be able to make our point…Makes me think a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. “I get that, as artists, our brains donโ€™t do as well with the business side of our work.”

    Eep, rebecca, this comment indicates you’re buying into the very stereotype we’re trying to break out of = the airy fairy artsy fartsy. I think someone like Jeff Melanson (opera singer in possession of an MBA) and me (former theatre director in possession of the same) might disagree with your statement. Though I understand what you are saying, it’s not the best way of framing it.

    I agree absolutely – I’ve said before and I’ll say it again when dealing with sponsors, with business people etc you need to speak their language – the comparison I make is that if you’re going to France, you’ll at least try to learn some French. If you are dipping yourself into any other culture, you’ll try to fit in, whether it’s not wearing shorts in a synagogue, or learning that lineups don’t matter in another place, or in this case dressing like a professional according to their culture, and being able to speak about what matters to the sponsor in front of you.

  3. Hey no worries lovey – and I do totally get what you are saying, we need to be ruthlessly armed in our opponents’ weapons of choice when walking into their arena.
    Not that it’s a war – sorry for the gladitorial imagery! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Prior to joining Sun News, Erickson worked for CBC Television for 11 years, most recently as a member of the network’s parliamentary bureau. She had previously courted controversy by dating Conservative Member of Parliament Lee Richardson.[1]
    In 2008, she was accused of bias while covering the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings when she was accused of feeding questions to former Liberal Member of Parliament Pablo Rodriguez. An investigation by the CBC ombudsman cleared her of any charge of bias.[1]
    Erickson promoted the launch of Sun News by appearing as a Sunshine Girl on the day of the channel’s premiere.[2]
    In June 2011, an interview by Erickson of interpretive dancer Margie Gillis generated over 4,000 complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council due to what some viewed as Erickson’s aggressive tone when she challenged Ellis to explain why artists like herself deserved public funding.[3]
    Erickson is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba and joined CBC Manitoba in 1999, working on shows such as It’s a Living and CBC News: Disclosure as a researcher. In 2002, she joined CBC News and contributed to The National and Marketplace. In the fall of 2003, she hosted CBC News: Canada Now while Jennifer Rattray was on maternity leave. In 2004, she became anchor of CBC Manitoba’s supper hour newscast, CBC News at Six. In 2006, she joined CBC’s parliamentary bureau in Ottawa where she remained until leaving CBC for Sun News in 2010.

    Taken from Wiki!!!

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