Art Matters Forum: How do the arts sustain local communities?
Oslo, Norway, Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Hello and welcome!
In this era of globalization, one of the most crucial issues facing humanity is how to live together.
My husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I both believe that relationships between individuals and populations go beyond mere trade.
We believe that globalization also sets out to bring together the ways of life, values and world views that define our cultures and identities, and are sources of collective enrichment.
In our opinion, we must see cultural diversity as an opportunity to come together and discuss the challenges we have in common.
We also believe that in a world whose boundaries are forever being pushed back, art is a universal language that makes it easier for people to communicate and is an essential part of civilization that stands the test of time.
That is why we created a forum called Art Matters: to encourage this dialogue. It was designed to be a space for dialogue, sharing and reflection on the arts and culture, to be held not only in Canada but on our visits abroad as well.
It is a way for us to exercise what we call cultural diplomacy, that is, to ensure that the arts and culture are opportunities for each of us to share.
This will be our 38th Art Matters forum, and we are delighted to see the collaborations that have come out of this initiative and the ties that have been forged between participants from every background, beyond the barriers we mistakenly believe to be insurmountable.
My husband, the members of the Canadian delegation accompanying us and I are all delighted to welcome artists, creators, researchers, thinkers, leaders and representatives from the Norwegian cultural community today to discuss how the arts sustain local communities.
One of the realities that northern countries like Canada and Norway face is, of course, remoteness and distance. Some of our communities are accessible only by air; this is certainly the case with many Inuit communities in Canada.
As such, I was astonished to see, for example, the posters of the Artscape Nordland project, which seeks to fill the spectacular landscape of northern Norway—specifically the County of Nordland—with sculptures that are integrated into the environment.
In this region where there are no art galleries, Nature itself serves to house these creations, and the works signed by artists from around the world can be enjoyed by everyone.
How can we ensure that cultural works and activities surmount geographical distances and sometimes the wall of indifference that artists who choose to work in remote regions come up against?
How can we ensure that small communities have access to the wealth and diversity of cultures and artistic practices?
What is being done to preserve local and traditional cultures, which imbue our communities with ancestral wisdom and a sense of harmony, while promoting greater openness to the world?
How can we give young people living in remote regions a culture in which they recognize themselves, a culture they want to renew with their own outlook on the world, their own ideas and their own choices?
These are the questions and challenges at the heart of the arts and culture debate in Canada, and we would like to hear about your experience, your points of view and your suggestions.
I will end here, as I am anxious to hear what you have to say.