Artists’ Ode to an Upcoming Election

Calling it an ‘epidemic’ may be a bit of an embellishment but the fact that many talented artists are fleeing parts of the GTA and other suburban communities in Ontario, even Canada, or giving up their practice due to a lack of resources and bleak landscapes with expensive housing is no joke.

Although this isn’t gentrification, the symptoms are similar. As I drive endlessly around York Region looking for a new place to call home, I’m greeted with excavator torn fields and immaculate showrooms boasting ‘picture perfect’ renderings of new homes, each with the name of a historically famous artist, starting at $699,999. Though artist names are abundant, artist residents are not.

Can this ever change? Yes, of course it can. How and who is responsible? That’s where you enter the fold. Many people think arts organizations are responsible for educating elected officials and implementing new resources, programs and infrastructure, which they are, but it’s important to take a moment to realize who makes up these arts organizations: artists and those passionate about the arts.

Oftentimes, there are only a couple individuals responsible for carrying the weight of this responsibility and even more frequently, they are underpaid or unpaid. Imagine sharing your voice and your vision for your community, then a fellow artist does the same, then another and another until one voice becomes many and many become one. This communicates impact (something every funder wants to hear) and is the meat (or tofu) and potatoes arts organizations need to pull together a compelling case.

Don’t take for granted that your local politicians understand the value of arts and culture to a thriving community. Yes, it’s obvious to you and I, though it needs to be articulated, several times by several people with a seemingly impossible balance of creativity and business acumen. 

You may be thinking, “this is motivational but how do I actually do something about all this?” Through the lens of two arts organizations, ArtsVote and PASO, you will gain invaluable insight into how they found a system to action their vision.

Case #1: ArtsVote

ArtsVote was founded in 1993 by a dedicated team of arts workers and artists. They sought to raise awareness among the cultural community of how important it is to vote for candidates who support the cultural sector in the City of Toronto. Through four municipal elections, beginning in 1994, ArtsVote created and distributed the excellent and effective Report Card, which evaluated candidates based on their track record and aspirations for arts and culture policy; and was instrumental in getting arts-savvy voters out to the polls. Between elections, ArtsVote organized deputations to City (& Metro) Council at budget time, encouraging councillors to continue investing in the arts community.

Get Involved:
• Tell Toronto municipal candidates why you ArtsVote!
• Share your support for ArtsVote on Facebook and Twitter – hashtags: #TOpoli #artsvoteyyz
• Submit your thoughts for the ArtsVote blog
• Register to vote, then have your say! Learn how you can Get Voting.
• Keep the pressure on: after election day, email or write to your councillor and mayor so that they know the arts community is counting on their leadership at City Hall

2014 Key Issues:
• Arts and Culture Champions
• Affordable Spaces to Live, Work, and Play
• Sustainable Funding and Growth in Investment
• A Committed Partner – in Every Neighbourhood

Learn more at

Mayoral Arts Debate:
On Monday, September 29, ArtsVote is facilitating a Mayoral Arts Debate where mayoral candidates debate the role of arts and culture in Toronto. Anyone can attend. Learn more at

Example #2: The Provincial Arts Service Organizations of Ontario (PASO)

PASO is a Coalition of Provincial Arts Service Organizations that strives to strengthen the environment for the individuals and institutions that create and disseminate the arts in this province and for public access to the arts. Their collective memberships are made up of individual artists as well as the performance and exhibition organizations that create and support artistic expression.

PASO developed a report titled “Five Questions from the Arts Community for the 2014 Ontario Provincial Election.” In addition to the questions the report included other suggestions and statistics such as the economic impact of arts on tourism and the economy extracted from an Ontario Arts Council report in 2013. The questions below can be adapted to address any province, region, city or town during any election campaign.

1. How will your party support youth employment in the Province through a robust community-driven training/internship strategy?

2. Can you confirm your party’s commitment to the arts sector by increasing investment in the arts through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport — and key agencies such as the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation — to bring Ontario to the national average, a minimum of $89 per capita?

3. How will your party strengthen the Status of Ontario’s Artists Act through a consultative process to better address the financial challenges of artistic creation?

4. How will your party address the value of the arts through increasing arts education in schools?

5. How will your party invest in adequate and affordable facilities for artists and arts organizations?

Read the full report at

The moral of the story is don’t be shy. Identify your needs as an artist in your community – chances are, others share your sentiments. Rally behind an arts organization and, who knows, one day, you may actually get what you want.

Samantha Rodin, Visual Arts Editor

Contact me at

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