Art Matters Forum on Arts and Culture
Rideau Hall, Monday, September 21, 2009
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Jean-Daniel and I are extremely pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall. Being surrounded by committed friends who believe in the higher value of art is a real joy. Thank you for having accepted our invitation.
Many of you are already familiar with the Art Matters format, with our open-door philosophy to stimulate debate and foster new ideas, and with Jean-Daniel’s insatiable appetite for the arts and culture, free expression and creative thought.
We see this institution as a place for dialogue, reflection and sharing enriched by a multitude of points of view. To those of you who are participating in our exchanges for the first time, artists as well as business people and patrons of the arts, I would like to say that your active involvement in our discussion will be particularly welcomed.
We have come together today to open a national dialogue on initiatives that would place the arts and culture at the centre of community development. It is a continuation of a discussion begun at an Art Matters forum in Banff in April 2008.
Art has the power to inspire, transform, pacify, heal, and rehabilitate.
That power is at work in every community across Canada, particularly among our youth, who have made it an instrument for social change and to fight exclusion.
And I believe that no one knows that power better than urban artists.
In Vancouver and Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, Montréal and Iqaluit, the urban arts–be it rap, multimedia, sculpture, graffiti, spoken word, slam, to name but a few–are helping to ease tensions, steer youth away from a life of crime, reawaken in them a desire to live again, a desire to dream, to reinvent their life and the world in which we live.
Former gang members whom I have met at various discussions and youth dialogues across Canada have told me straight out, “Excellency, the urban arts saved my life.” I heard that same message when I met with the inmates of a provincial prison.
These moving encounters gave rise to the idea of holding Urban Arts Forums here in Canada and abroad. Through these forums, I have seen with my own eyes how the work of these artists is transforming difficulty and indifference into a glimmer of hope and a willingness to take action.
I have seen how the arts are a tool for making our neighbourhoods, communities and society in general more secure, stimulating and harmonious. I have seen how they enable us to live together and to live better.
I believe that we need to tap into the power of the arts and their ability to reach that part of us that is most profoundly human.
Allow me to introduce to you a few people who will facilitate the discussion and get us thinking about the power of the arts and the way in which they shape how our communities develop.
Our moderator, Mr. John Goldsmith, who will make sure that we do not let our enthusiasm go overboard.
Ms. Louise Sicuro, executive director of the Secrétariat des Journées de la culture and guiding spirit behind that event since it was founded in 1997. The Journées de la culture have allowed her to be part of a popular movement to promote, reinforce and accelerate cultural democratization in Quebec.
Our keynote speaker, Mr. William Cleveland, activist, teacher, lecturer, musician, a pioneer in the community arts movement and one of its most poetic documenters. He also directs the Center for the Study of Art and Community in Bainbridge Island, Washington State, which aims to build new working relationships between the arts and the broader community specializing in the development and assessment of arts-based community partnerships, and training for artists, and their community and institutional partners. Welcome, Mr. Cleveland.
And last but not least, Mr. Lance Carlson, President and CEO of the Alberta College of Art + Design since August 2004. An innovative, rational, and reflective strategist, a conceptual and critical thinker skilled at defining the vague and the intuitive, Lance Carlson knows how to extract what is significant into clear frameworks via reasoning tempered by insight–those are his own words. I want to thank you, Mr. Carlson, for your invaluable contribution to the organization of this forum and for making possible the presence here today of many participants from the Canadian cultural community. Well done!
I would also like to thank the members of the Rideau Hall staff who made this forum possible, as well as the organizers behind the DIASPORArt exhibit, featuring works from the Canada Council Art Bank collection, which you will be able to enjoy beginning this evening.
You will see that these works by artists from the African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American diasporas speak volumes about the identity of the artists for whom Canada has become a new home.
My friends, because I am so impatient to hear from all of you, I will keep my other remarks for later on. Without further ado, I now pass the floor to Jean-Daniel. Thank you.