Ok, let us be the first one to get all the bad jokes out there: Theatre has gone to the Dogs, Theatre gets put in the Doghouse, Dog Gone it Get me a Ticket – because Dachshund UN is coming to Harbourfront Centre next week. Frequent Praxis collaborator Margaret Evans played a key role in casting.
Looking for other theatre blogs considering pressing local issues? Umbrella Talks is up and running again with a series of new interviews with theatre artists. Just launched this summer, In The Green Room has also made a splash with multiple writers contributing to the site and a series called Stop, Start, Continue. Of course, don’t forget to check out Theatre Ontario’s Blog, which is a consistently updated resource for theatremakers.
At 6:16:11 PM on April 16 2010, Toronto City Council approved a Billboard Tax. This led directly to the increase in arts funding in 2013.
In the world of federal arts funding, The Globe and Mail revealed most Canadians think the $30 Million spent promoting the War of 1812 was a waste. Conversely, they were disappointed The Harper Government didn’t spend more time celebrating actually important milestones like anniversaries of Women’s Suffrage and The Charter. No word yet on if there is a correlation between these Canadians and the ones The Toronto Star found had grown weary, “even hostile to”, Economic Action Plan advertisements.
The Montreal Theatre Awards are in the process of being invented. Anglophone theatre companies will have their own annual peer-juried awards, presented under the auspices of the Quebec Drama Federation. Right now they are picking the name of the award, which you can vote on in a Facebook poll.
Throughout today and tomorrow Toronto City Council’s Budget Committee is hearing deputations from the community about what various citizens and organizations would like to see in the next budget. Again this year, a number of arts organizations and individuals will be making the case to increase arts funding to a previously promised $25 per capita.
The above video was created by BeautifulCity.ca, an alliance made up of over 60 arts organizations. It provides an excellent recap of their work to create a tax on billboards that would in turn provide the funding necessary for Council to follow through on their repeated commitments to increase that funding: the Capital Gains Report (passed 2011), Strategies for Arts and Culture Funding (2010), and Cultural Plan for a Creative City (2003.)
Praxis has written extensively in the past about BeautifulCity.ca and their activities, as well as the various public consultations that helped create documents like the Capital Gains Report, and we’ve live tweeted from a number of public events on this topic.
There are many things you can do to show your support for this initiative to create an arts-friendly budget in 2013. Click here for more information on BeautifulCity.ca about attending & supporting the deputations, the Artists Jam Session & Town Hall in January, or how to contact the Budget Committee members directly.
Check out the document below if you’d like more information on the billboard tax, and what exactly BeautifulCity.ca is asking of the Budget Committee for 2013.
So if you didn’t know – the billboard tax was recently overturned in the courts. Whether or not the court appeal should be launched will be decided by Planning and Growth Management Committee (PGM) today, Thursday, March 24th, in Committee Room 1 at 10:00am. This will be followed by Council on April 12th.
If you are an Equity member, tomorrow, Friday March 25th, is the last day to send in your Independent Theatre Survey to the good people at Leger. It takes 45 minutes and it is worth it! Just do it. Nike. I don’t know what else to say….
My take on the survey, and why it is important is here.
3: Hashtag for Arts and Culture in the Election
The Canadian Arts Coalition has suggested coordinating information on arts in culture an almost-certain federal election through the hashtag #artsvotecan.
For those of us on the internet, but not on Twitter, who would like to follow this newsfeed, you can find it at twitter.com/artsvotecan. The call to action: “Let’s build a national dialogue – one tweet at a time!”
The Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West will eventually become a permanent home for The Theatre Centre
by Michael Wheeler
A permanent home for The Theatre Centre
The Theatre Centre has existed in many locations since being founded in 1979, began a research and development program for Toronto indie theatre in 1984, and updated this practice in 2004 to its groundbreaking residency program now in place. It is an established leader in boundary-pushing, innovative and challenging approaches to performance and has nurtured and developed the talents of many of the city’s top artists.
In April, City Council offered the long-term lease of the former Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West to The Theatre Centre as sole tenant. After 48 years of closure to the public, residents of Toronto will be able to enjoy the building once more. More money still needs to be raised to bring this much needed resource and home for a community into reality, but this first step, and the commitment of a number of key foundations to support this move, is my #1 pick for 2010.
Citizens Against Proroguing Parliament
What? Yep. That was this year. Can you believe it? Hoping Canadians wouldn’t notice their democracy being shut down by framing it as a “procedural issue” Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees and was met with impressive organization online and in the streets. It’s hard to tell what was more heartening: a single Facebook page becoming an overnight organizing megaforce or 200,000 Canadians asserting their right to live in a democracy coast-to-coast with a single voice. It’s a good thing we finally got to the bottom of that whole Afghan detainee thing….Oh – wait a second!?!
People who did the thing they said they would do, in the time alloted, the way they said they would do it
Most successful endeavours this year were likely based on your contributions.
Summerworks is one of the most important theatre festivals for new independent performance in the country. Some of the shows produced there may not or may not speak to Conservative values, and the festival may or may not have submitted a grant late at a certain point. None of this changes the important role the festival plays in Canada’s performing arts ecosystem and the opportunity it presents for emerging artist/entrepreneurs to jumpstart their own careers. The recent move to Queen W. and the inclusion of independent music are also a big plus for making it an event with wide community appeal.
Cardinal Clement was concerned data from the census could establish facts that differed from official state doctrine
Whatever ideological differences we may have with one another as citizens, it is not acceptable for the government to act as if the Enlightenment didn’t happen. Facts are relevant, data is important and logic can only be ignored at our peril.
An overtime sudden-death goal to win the final gold medal of an Olympic games, at home, simultaneously making your country the one with the most gold medals at the games, and establishing a new record for gold medals by a country at any Olympic winter games. Our grandchildren will be jealous.
praxistheatre.com comment of the year
I would like to acknowledge the highly subjective “winner” of this category each year in this space. Even though I just interviewed Brendan Gall six weeks ago, if we’re going to base these things on merit, I believe he was also the clear winner of ‘Comment of the Year ’ for his response to our February post: “How Do You Get a Grant?”
It’s still unclear whether any of the funds from the City’s Billboard Tax will reach their original target of “public art” to offset the visual pollution caused by billboard advertising as originally intended, recommended by city staff, and supported by a majority of Torontonians. Ten years from now, the real value of this movement may be the politicization and organization of a generation of artists and community activists. This is a new cohort of engaged citizenry that understands how to communicate through social and mainstream media and is determined to have an impact at City Hall – not just for arts funding – but to contribute to a city that is understood as a community and is based on inclusive values.
On Monday, August 16th, City Council’s Executive Committee will be meeting to decide on a long-term plan to increase funding to the arts, with new money made available from the recently implemented billboard tax. Join BeautifulCity.ca in Committee Room 1 at 10am to show your support.
Background information on the 10-year battle of public space advocates to create a Billboard Tax for Art in Toronto can be found here, here and here on the Praxis website, and here on BeautifulCity.ca.
At 6:16:11 PM on April 15 Counsellor Minnan-Wong's motion to "torpedo" the Billboard Tax being connected to arts funding failed miserably.
by Michael Wheeler
If you’re sipping your morning coffee it’s time to spike it with something, and if it’s closer to lunch crack something bubbly – because folks – rarely is there such a clear cut victory as this:
Years of community-based consultations and organizing has resulted in exactly what Torontonians had called for by a 5-1 margin. The revenue from the new Billboard Tax will be dedicated to arts funding for the public sphere.
There’s nothing else to say really. Tip of the hat to Devon Ostrom and the entire Beautifulcity Alliance for their work, intelligence and sticktoitiveness. There were some dark moments there.
Next time someone tells you grassroots organizing doesn’t work – or the current generation of artists is politically apathetic – feel free to send them the link to this post.
BeautifulCity founder Devon Ostrom talks to Late Night in the Bedroom about the history of the billboard tax, the logic behind its implementation, and how some city councillors would like to hijack the revenue for other uses.
by Michael Wheeler
It’s all come down to the next week. As coveredover the pastfew monthson this website, it’s been a long haul for the BeautifulCity Alliance: after years of depositions, presentations, reports, and finally votes by City Council, we’ll have our answer when final approval is given to the city budget over April 15th and 16th.
Here’s some of what’s at stake:
Whether the visual pollution created by billboards will be counteracted by arts funding for the public sphere, or whether a billboard tax becomes like parking tickets and stripper licenses a new revenue stream for the city’s tax base.
Whether or not the original intent of the tax as presented to Council, recommended by City Staff, and supported by Torontonians by a 5-1 margin in a recent EKOS poll is actually reflected in the budget.
Whether or not the city meets its Lastman-era commitment to move per-capita arts spending from $18 to $25. Vancouver spends $19 per capita, Montreal spends $32 and New York spends $54.
Whether or not Toronto City Hall is a place where a grassroots, decade-long groundswell of dedicated engagement to provide a long-term sustainable approach to improved public space and arts funding is possible. Do vested interests have the ability to hijack community-based initiatives to in order to lower their tax rates? Where does the real power lie at City Hall?
Demonstrating support and momentum behind Budget Chief Shelly Carroll’s motion to dedicate the billboard revenue to the arts will determine the answer to these questions. Things are starting to heat up: The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and The National Post all recently ran pieces about this motion, and Mayoral candidates are showing a willingness to step into the fray. Councillor Carroll’s Facebook status indicates she will be relying on the Web 2.0 political class to demonstrate support for her stand:
What can you do?
Go to beautifulcity.ca and follow the simple to follow instructions to indicate to Councillors on the Executive Committee that they have your support to use the billboard tax for its intended purpose to enhance public spaces with art.
Props to these Councillors and/or Mayoral Candidates who have already indicated their support:
Councillor Shelley Carroll, Budget Chief
Councillor Joe Pantalone, Mayoral Candidate
George Smitherman, Mayoral Candidate
Councillor Joe Mihevc
Councillor Janet Davis
Councillor Howard Moscoe
Councillor Paula Fletcher
(Just because they’re listed here it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be contacted and congratulated for their principled stance.)
We received the info below from our friends at beautifulcity.ca and are happy to repost here.
Note the event will be moderated by Variation on Theatre #7 and Theatre Why Not Artistic Director Ravi Jain. Note that those involved in the budget process are likely sizing up this whole situation to see how much trouble it’s going to be to just sweep this under the rug. Note that if you show up you will play a small part in contributing to that assessment. Finally, please note how well the colours of the invite work with the rest of this website!
The billboard tax has been passed but zero new money has been invested in beautifying or democratizing access to public spaces with art in the 2010 Budget. This goes against highly favourable public opinion polls by EKOS (2009) Environics (2007) and Pollara (2005) and a 4500 person petition, 60 endorsements by organizations and reams of city plans to build a successful Toronto for the long-term. Along with the Mayor, city councillors from across the political spectrum have also been very supportive of a billboard tax to fund art in committee, council and the press. Similarly, public consultations, staff and consultant’s reports stated that the purpose of the tax was to support arts and city beautification projects.
We are not really sure what happened, however the budget has not passed yet. It’s time to get a bit pissed — then get smart and help correct this mistake by coming to the town hall. It worked to get the tax. It might just work to take it back!
k.d. Lang sure did Own The Podium with her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah
Does the possibility of Toronto City Council abandoning the Beautiful City initiative, the 93% cuts to BC culture concurrent with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and the coming 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto mean bad news for Torontoians who value art and culture?
by Adriana Alarcón
The art sector envisioned a Billboard Tax that would reclaim the public visual landscape and allow the public to participate in painting the picture, so to speak. But the community will receive ZERO dollars from the new tax for art programs. The Staff Recommended 2010 Operating Budget simply avoids a general 5% decrease in funding to the arts. Topics like downloading pressure from Provincial government on city services; decreases in funding to other city programs; have risen past the need to allocate revenues from the Billboard Tax directly towards funding for the art sector. Pro-art councillor Gord Perks was a strong supporter of the Billboard Tax and pro dedicating the funds to the arts. Recently, however, an email communication suggests that it’s the general idea of ear-marking dollars which he finds problematic. “I do not support dedicating the tax revenue to a specific program” he stated.
Local artists had hoped the City would work to acknowledge the contribution from the arts sector in generating an estimated $10.4-million per year. Old fears are resurfacing as artists see the 90% decrease in funding to arts and culture by the same province that is hosting the world’s premier athletes and start to shudder. Starving artist stereotypes aside, I am quite sure that many essential, arts-service organizations, independent theatre companies and young collectives would make the most out of every penny from these new coffers. With that appreciation, I fear most that a sum like $10.4-million is one that is too easily swallowed up by mega productions of international, amateur sporting events like the Pan Am Games, which are coming to town in 2015.
The Toronto arts sector must look west to the role of arts and culture at the Olympic Games and work hard to build on the momentum started by the BCBF and Department of Culture. In British Columbia we can witness high profile Hollywood names with Canadian links in tourism commercials. MTV is broadcasting live performances held nightly at Whistler and Vancouver medal ceremonies. Yet funding to the arts in BC has decreased dramatically in recent years – by 90% last year. Let us also remember that after arts-funding was cut severely at the Federal level in 2008, Prime Minister Harper poured that money into the Olympic Torch Run, which was more evidently sponsored by Coca-Cola than by the Government of Canada, in my opinion. Could Toronto be the next to see culture budget slashing followed by limitless spending on Games preparations?
It’s not all down with art and on with brawn. Artists can look forward to opportunities in the Opening Ceremonies and in large scale concert, performance and exhibition series that are to be expected in four years to celebrate the Pan Am Games. Artists play a vital role in interpreting and communicating Canadian values, in making sense of the complexity that is the collective Canadian identity. After this week, we must note that VANOC tapped into our gifts to elevate theirs. However, it is especially important now, to ensure the City of Toronto meets their moral obligation to acknowledge the work by the many individuals who supported the Billboard tax. It is timely to make a positive impact on our industry and to continue the beautification of the cityscape.
Rob Ford was the only councillor during the Billboard Tax debate to explicitly suggest the new stream revenue wouldn’t go to culture.
It’s also not about artists turning on athletes. My fear is about seeing one sector have its expectations and deadlines met by all means available while the other is perennially tucked behind road work and social programs, despite the dedication shown by the Visual Art sector on the Beautiful City campaign. The Provincial and Federal governments have pledged to support the infrastructure projects required to bring the 2015 Games home. Soon the focus will be diverted towards new housing projects and revitalization of the waterfront, again. Toronto will undoubtedly play the multicultural card in it’s touting of the city around the Western Hemisphere and generating sponsorship opportunities. Sporting events are highly profitable marketing opportunities – in the long run. In the short run, they will cost the City a lot more than $10M per year. Without supporting or protesting the Games, Billboard Tax dollars should be thought of with sights on the future of the industry that made that money available.
Artists bring their own fan base, they further increase the hype level of the adrenaline charged environment, and they open new markets. They provide a means to entertain the masses. This is essential for games organizers since the actual sporting events are too expensive or somehow elusive to the local market. Also key for a successful Olympiad is leaving the host city with a sense of pride and some good memories. Having volunteered and worked at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in 1999, I can point to the Games as the time when I saw Burton Cummings perform live at the Closing ceremonies by request of Manitoba’s Premier, which then led to a Guess Who reunion tour. Personally, I’m not hoping for a Rush reunion. My hope is that given the rise of Hip Hop in Latin America as well as Toronto’s connections to recent success stories; a sensational, summer concert line-up could be expected from July 10 to July 26, 2015.
What about the local scene? What about young rappers, slam poets and performers that could be engaged in the dialogue between games attendees and ‘real’ Torontonians? How about continuing to support the budding stars that can one day do their part in promoting the Canadian profile in the world stage? What about nurturing and incubating the masterpieces of the future?
Let’s hope that Toronto artists are not asked to bear the burden of the cost of the Pan Am Games. Let’s hope that artists are asked to wear our costumes and stage make-up for 17 days – but not at our own expense – especially after our creative thinking opened a new source of income for the City of Toronto.
Adriana Alarcón lives in Toronto. Her art practice includes various fields such as writing, music, design and visual arts.
Councillors sat at these desks to pass the sign bylaw 25 -16 before investigating how the flux capacitor had caused the warp drive to go offline
By Michael Wheeler
Yep, that’s right: Toronto has a new sign bylaw and it’s a pretty good one. A ten-year battle by public space advocates was passed by an even wider margin they hoped for. It will create more than $10 million for the City of Toronto annually. Their success will likely go down as a famous and glorious moment in grassroots political organizing in Toronto, and a good story for the kids about what you can accomplish with a huge dose of sticktoitiveness and a flawlessly executed and integrated social and mainstream media campaign.
The news for arts funding advocates was less rosy. Even though the City of Toronto staff report recommended directing the revenue to arts funding, the bylaw was passed without this stipulation and there are many assurances, but no guarantees, that some of the funds will be earmarked for art. Councillor Rob Ford stated explicitly that he believed the monies would not end up being used for arts funding.
Ford was emblematic of the virulent anti-artist bias that still exists within City Hall. Attacking artists in attendance, referring to them as “freeloaders”, he questioned their ability to simultaneously be employed and participate in democracy by attending City Hall. Councillor Minnan-Wong went as far to suggest that artists are not real people – hoping to ensure that the funds would never see any arts groups going instead to, “real people, real communities”.
Councillor Rob Ford was comfortable hurling insults at artists during the debate.
Cheekiest moment of the debate went to Councillor Adam Vaughan for his motion that the City of Toronto congratulate Knaan for being chosen to perform in front of hundreds of millions with his 2010 World Cup song and for generally becoming a major world superstar who is still engaged with his community. Counsellor Vaughan was also quick to point out that Knaan had been the recipient of municipal arts funding when he was an emerging artist in Etobicoke – the region Rob Ford represents.
Net result: This is a great opportunity for artists to take the high road and and strengthen relationships with their allies. Clearly this bylaw would never have passed with out artists and arts-based activism. Clearly the arts should see some of this money – but what about the rest of it? After $1.4 Million of the tax is used to pay for proper enforcement of the new sign bylaws, what will the other $9 million go to? Obviously the Toronto Arts Council is a good start, all of it would double what TAC gives out in a given year, which seems unrealistic in a city with a cost-prohibitive transit system.
What are the other things that make a city beautiful? I would go with 1) less hunger 2) more affordable housing 3) cleaner air/better cycling routes. Someone else might pick something else, but I bet most artists would be in the same ballpark. Arts activists are now in a unique position to increase their own funding and that of their allies and partners in making a truly beautiful city.
This is possibly the only way to prove ideologues like Ford and Minnan-Wong wrong: By showing we understand we are part of a grander scheme for society, one that incorporates many factors that work in tandem with one another that make our communities a better place to live. We are even capable of sharing resources amongst ourselves – because it is essential to each element that we all thrive. Real people and communities are complicated and multi-dimensional that way.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”