Two warnings and one demand by Barbara Sternberg


   ...I have two warnings and one demand. The first warning is that it is at our peril that we sell out art, or co-opt it, or ignore it. Culture is the myth we live within, and in the 20th century that's technology. We are in a technological, market society. Philosopher George Grant, who lives here in Halifax, has lamented the loss of a Canadian alternative to "the unrelenting drive for power of the American dynamo." Grant also laments the lack of space for the human and the good in society, and our loss of the ability to remember the good in living. I think art can be a perspective from 'outside'. Art can remind us of our loss. It can re-engage us with myth, mystery and the good in living.


My second warning concerns the language we use. In trying to make themselves heard, more and more artists have used the language of commerce because now that is also the language of government. We hear much talk about art being labour intensive, about job creation, and tourist dollars. We refer to the cultural industry and the entertainment business. I think there is a danger in this.


My one demand, I'm afraid, is a big one. It's for a fundamental change in Canadian attitudes towards art and culture. We must accept cultural activities or art, in the biggest meaning of that word, as values in and of themselves. We must see art not as means to ends but as an end in itself. Until we do that, nothing else we talk about is going to matter. When we do, however, other things will fall into place. We will find ways to communicate and to implement our financial strategies. But this will happen only when the government and the people of Canada are convinced it's important that it should happen... Let the greening begin!


The above comments were delivered at the Halifax Conference: A National Forum on Cultural Policy  September 21, 1985