Voting for the arts

Listen to the candidates for the upcoming municipal election, read their flyers and handouts, and look around their websites, and in most cases you’ll notice something’s missing:

London’s arts community.

In late September seven individuals from arts-related festivals, companies, publications and websites met to discuss the lack of recognition for the city’s artists, in the current campaign and in general. (Disclosure: I’m one of those individuals.) Recognizing that there’s a large population of artists and arts supporters in London—if you’re reading this then odds are you’re one of them—the group decided to form ArtsVote London with the goal of raising the profile of artists’ concerns among the city’s politicians and support staff at all levels. Funding is a key issue, naturally, but so are topics such as limited public performance and exhibition space, showcasing London’s arts through the tourism office, and providing affordable living and working space for artists and cultural organizations.

Similar to the ArtsVote campaigns in other cities, the ArtsVote London organizers sent a letter to all of the ward and mayoral candidates asking specific questions about their arts platforms. To date—a week before the election—only a fifth of the almost 70 candidates have responded, including just a single answer from the 15 candidates for mayor and none from any of the candidates in wards 2, 5, 6 and 11. Contrast that to Toronto, which held a mayoral debate solely on the topic of arts. (I was there: not only was the debate hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario filled to capacity, but the overflow room at OCAD and even the lobby were packed too.)

ArtsVote London encourages everyone who participates in the arts—visual, theatre, music, dance, sculpture, painting, poetry, prose, or any other form—as a creator or a consumer, to investigate and evaluate the candidates’ stances on arts issues, to declare your intention to vote, and then vote on Monday, October 25.

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