To my visual artist and my artisan friends, my apologies for the title, I was going for something cute, but "musicians" was the only "artist" term I could find that fit the alliteration.
I want to start with a thank you to the many artists, musicians, actors, dancers and patrons of the arts who came to celebrate Culture Days in High River this weekend. In High River we had 14 official venues (and likely a few more unofficial ones) for Culture Days this year. It was wonderful to see all those signs out and about!
I didn't have the pleasure of coming to visit you that day, I was holding a microphone at Site #1, the stage at the temporary library. The downfall to performing Master of Ceremonies duties is that you don't get to see all the individual activity happening elsewhere. I do, however, have no problems trusting the activities in the other locations were top-notch, as I took an unofficial Art Walk on Tuesday this week, and was able to get a glimpse of much of what you were all doing. Kudos to you, artists.
Now for a point of clarification. Mayor Craig Snodgrass came to speak at Site #1, and spoke a great deal about the efforts for the Economic Development Plan, and how Arts and Culture is not just a byline this time around. He said when input was needed on the report from Twist Marketing, the best feedback came from me. Later on, he also thanked me, Joyce Brown and the Arts and Culture Committee for the organization of Arts and Culture Days.
Craig, thank you for the recognition of the hard work I'm putting into Arts and Culture in High River. But when it comes to Culture Days, it wasn't me! I just brought my bands and blabbered into the microphone.
And I wish I could say it was the Arts and Culture Board, too. It wasn't, at least this time around. Certainly every member of the Board was involved individually, but not in an organizing capacity.
It was most definitely Joyce Brown's leadership that got Culture Days going not just this year, but many years previous as well. She is not a Culture Manager, Programmer, or any other such title with the town. She is the Library's Programming Director. She simply added Arts and Culture to her portfolio because it was lacking, and it was a passion of hers. I'm very pleased to be able to work with her on the Arts and Culture Board.
It was also the artists of the community of High River. Much like they came together after the flood to drive the community towards hope, they came back together again to show what art can do. "Art" is certainly aesthetic, and can be enjoyed in and of itself, but that is only "Art" as a noun. To "Art" as a verb is to take into context your surroundings, build it into your expression, and to share it with the community. To "Art" as a verb is also to do so with others, collaborating, finding inspiration from each other, and building community.
Artists collaborate and build community. Visual artists make beautiful pieces that can be kept for generations. Performance artists make beautiful pieces that can be enjoyed in the moment and talked about for generations. But more importantly, they build community. So High River becomes "our Art". This is what we celebrated on Saturday for Culture Days. And this is what every artist in town contributed to.
I wish I could say it is sustainable. The Arts community took a big hit last year, as did the rest of us. What if, such a big hit to our community meant we lost (as a community) a powerful arts advocate like Joyce Brown. Would the community pick up where she left off?
I would like to think so, but I can't know for sure. So Mr. Mayor, if you're really ready for Arts and Culture to take a main stage in High River, let's make it happen in such a way that come what may, the Arts and Culture will still be here, ready to rebuild High River's hope and future again.
I believe the Arts and Culture Board can be one piece of that future. As it stands right now, it mostly advises on policy and works to implement that policy. None of the people on the Board joined it to only advise on policy, they joined because they have a builder's spirit, and they want to "Art" (as a verb). I truly hope Town Council shares that belief.
I really had hoped Maureen Kubinec, our new Culture Minister would have come to say hello. I saw a photographer from the Alberta Government come around, but no dignitaries. Hopefully someone corrects me and tells me that because I was stuck in Site #1, I just missed them.
Ms. Kubinec, I hope you consider changing Culture Days in such a way that it is supported year-round. Select various sites to host celebrations every month. Three host sites each month would give artists and patrons of the arts to visit each site and experience the uniqueness each community offers. The funding need not change, just the timing. Suddenly Arts and Culture are no longer seen as valued only once per year, but rather throughout the year. This could easily be worked into the Culture Plan that was discussed in your mandate letter from Premier Jim Prentice.
Ms. Kubinec, you also have an opportunity here in High River. We need to you advocate for us. High River has a beautiful vision for the downtown and for its future. We're ready to work for it. A helping hand is all we ask for.
"High River Strong" was a phrase that was meant to rally residents together in the most difficult time in its history. Now it means something different. "High River" has become an adjective describing strength. You can be as strong as an ox, you can be Hulk Smash Strong, but neither speaks to the kind of strength we developed after the flood. Strong backs, strong hearts, strong minds, strong together, that's what it means to be "High River" Strong.
Even the strongest need a helping hand. A helping hand in getting some groundwork laid for the development of an affordable performing arts venue. A helping hand in getting what we need to develop a learning library that can actually serve a community of 12,000 now, and 24,000 soon. A helping hand in working with other departments to ensure that provincial buildings are integrated well into our area development plans.
We're not asking you to do it, but hopefully you have seen how the community of High River has inspired others in Alberta. I believe an investment in that inspiration is warranted.
I'm looking forward to when we meet!