Culture, our Minds and the Election


You might think that cutting the budget for culture may not matter, and weighed against health issues in these fiscally tight times, you may even agree with the cuts. Well, you'd be wrong! 


Culture defines who we are, what our identity is as Canadians.  Our values and opinions are shaped by our culture. If we don't have magazines, books, films, and expressions through various art media, then where do our ideas come from? Disney? Hollywood? Time magazine? The media form the cultural context in which we live, think, act - and vote! Without expressions of ideas by Canadians, and to the extent that the U.S.A. dominates culture within Canada, our minds are colonized by the U.S.A.


Without Culture life would be grey. Try to imagine a world with no art, no dance, no poetry, no novels, no film, no theatre, no music...No life! And yet as a society we consistently marginalize artists, consider art a frill rather than one of the things that make life worth living, make life lively, stimulating, passionate.


In schools, teaching the arts should be compulsory. Learning through art enhances critical and lateral thinking, fosters creativity and problem-solving skills, encourages self-expression, and makes learning meaningful to the student and enjoyable. Media literacy is crucial in our very image-based world not only in order to understand and appreciate art, but also to deconstruct the barrage of advertising images.


At the risk of minimizing the real value of art; that is, the value of art in and of itself, I remind you that art makes good sense fiscally.  Art generates economy. Galleries and theatres employ people who pay taxes and live and spend in their communities. These organizations rent space or build spaces and encourage spin-off restaurant and tourist revenues.


Besides the inherent value of art as an inspiring or provoking experience for the viewer, as a critique of society, as a beautiful object, art objects exist as evidence of the human spirit optimistic enough to jump into the unknown and see there.


Cut the arts? Not on your life!


Barbara Sternberg


Barbara Sternberg has been making experimental films since the mid-70's. During these years, she also was co-founder and director of STRUTS gallery in New Brunswick, taught film at York University, and was a founding member of Pleasure Dome: Film Artists' Exhibition Group in Toronto.




The Globe and Mail

Arts Argument

444 Front St.W.

Toronto M5V 2S9


April 22/99


To the Editor,

Enclosed are two short articles one or both of which I hope you can use in the Arts Argument page. If you wish to contact me, my tel/fax number is (416) 489-8406.


Thanks, Barbara Sternberg