Advocating Together by Clayton Windatt

Advocacy in the art world falls onto the shoulders of those that want the world to be a better place. Those optimistic people that believe the arts can make a difference in Canada and help our economy grow through increasing the quality of life in each region. I am one of those who feel that my region has a lot to offer but still needs a lot of work in order for job growth, tourism and economic prosperity to occur. There are many areas that my region can improve but change is never easy and it never happens as fast as it I would like.

Working with the White Water Gallery has put me into many positions of advocacy as it is expected that I help ensure that infrastructures for my arts industry remain stable and that the needs of my community are met. This is how I became the Chairperson of the Artist-Run Centres and Collective of Ontario (ARCCO) and how I have now become the Co-Vice-Chair of theArtist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference (ARCA), which is the federal association of provincial ARC’s. It is my work with ARCCO and ARCA that brought me to a face-to-face meeting atARTEXTE in Montreal last week to weigh in on the needs of our industry. The meeting went well with a lot of really great resources being shared between organizations and exciting plans for events and research in many different sectors. One thing that I found very interesting is how much many of the regions had in common with both Ontario and specifically with Nipissing as the challenges they face were relatable to my own.

We made a lot of progress in some key areas of the arts including a very exciting round-table on publishing. I was able to share my local and regional issues as well as current problems and expectations regarding publishing. I received a huge amount of recommendations on how to improve things greatly for the White Water Gallery and I plan to share these with my provincial peers. Although it is not available for the public yet, there is a research paper that has been drafted by ARCA outlining many resources and statistics on this subject. Documents of this type allow regional associations to help pool resources and make something meaningful take place, then share the results with the extended regions helping us all.

It is refreshing to see that I am not alone in my strugglers and sharing success stories with my peers allows us to hear how others have overcome obstacles in their own way. Encouraging each other through the sharing of knowledge will play an important part as we each solidify culture plans and begin to really address our needs. If we are to ever start successfully utilizing culture as a part of the Canadian economy, we need to get cultural tourism improved, competitive project funding in place from each municipality, seed money for initiatives and a whole lot of policy developed in a lot of areas.

It won’t be fast or easy but if we work together celebrating our strengths, we can get there together.