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Vote for the Arts

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After a lot of dreaming, slow starts and meandering self-promises, I've crossed a few lines lately when it comes to the arts.

Journalists are generally supposed to keep a distance from the subjects they cover, but my decision to take both my visual arts and my screenwriting to the next level is already life-changing.

Since February, my work as a mosaic artist has been shown in three exhibitions in Whistler and Squamish. I trained over a decade ago in Italy and England, but never got round to making what I wanted to show publicly. That changed last summer when I picked up my hammer and starting cutting marble and smalti, and I've been doing it ever since.

And my screenwriting had been expressed in fits and starts over the past four years. This was finally rectified last week when a short film I wrote, The Catch, was filmed (!) and was a finalist in the 72hr Filmmaker Showdown at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. (This was very much thanks to the passion and energy of director Sharai Rewels, and the amazing crew and cast she pulled together.)

The point is that most of us have creative dreams that we follow to various degrees, but often we don't take them as far as we could. I can only recommend — thanks to my recent experiences — to feel the frigging fear and do it anyway.

There are plenty of us out there. The number of culture- and arts-related jobs in B.C. was estimated to be 81,385 in 2014, according to Statistics Canada. While this is a powerful constituency, it is actually a drop of 3,830 culture jobs in four years (from 85,215 in 2010). It isn't easy being an artist.

Another important Stats Can number has to do with the economy. In 2014, British Columbia's cultural sector added $7.2 billion to Canada's GDP.

This is higher than utilities ($4.7 billion), accommodation and food services ($6.3 billion) and agriculture, forestry and fisheries ($4.4 billion).

While there have been increases in investment to B.C. arts and culture, this investment has not kept pace with other Canadian provinces. As of 2016-17, B.C. ranks seventh in per-capita provincial arts councils spending on culture, according to Stats Can and provincial arts councils' numbers.

We are in the beginning stages/final month of the B.C. election, which takes place on May 9.

The BC Alliance for Arts and Culture wants the incoming provincial government (whoever wins) to bring in two strategies to strengthen the value of the billion-dollar cultural sector.

Basically, the alliance wants to point out that arts and culture is at the centre of our lives, and not the periphery. My experience of the past two years has brought that home to me.

We are impacted by the arts almost daily, whether we are signing up our kids for music lessons or dance classes, trying to earn a living in the arts, or simply going out to hear bands, watch movies, or visit an art gallery.

The alliance seeks the creation of a new Provincial Cultural Policy that recognizes culture as a pillar of the economy; integrates culture in education, social services, health and wellness; promotes diversity, inclusion and community cohesion in the arts; ensures consistency and transparency in cultural investment; and supports creation, research and innovation.

The second strategy is for the province to acknowledge and support culture by publicizing its impact and thus improving awareness of its importance and relevance; advocating for the benefits of cultural investment; expanding the mandates of cultural groups such as the BC Arts Council to promote the benefits of arts; investing in cultural sector human resources to foster talent and consumer activity; and researching and publishing findings on the impact of culture in B.C.

The alliance is also calling for a commitment to doubling the budget of the BC Arts Council over the next three years.

The alliance asks for artists, musicians, filmmakers, performers and other cultural and heritage workers to go on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to speak out about why the arts is important, using the hashtag #ArtsVoteBC.

Follow the organization at @ArtsVoteBC.

There is also a letter-writing campaign at action.artsvotebc.ca in which artists can tell candidates, party leaders and provincial ministers about what is important to artists of all kinds.

An all-candidates meeting to discuss party platforms and what each will do to support and promote the arts takes place at the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema at SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts in Vancouver on Monday, May 1 at 7 p.m.

These are all practical ways to support the growth and stability of the arts in this province — and in Whistler. Arts and culture are often not taken seriously by our lawmakers; let's show them how serious we can be.

And don't forget to exercise your right to vote. You can register and find out more information at www.elections.bc.ca.

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