Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I am an angry man.

I am an angry man, although, probably not for the reasons you might think. I recognize also that I may be angry prematurely. That said, I have a sinking feeling, a deep seated suspicion, and that, my friends, is the root of my discontent.

I am not angry that the Council of the Arts will probably not see the funding increase we've asked for and so desperately need. No, I'm not angry. That leaves me feeling sad. Sad for the Island, sad for the arts and artists, sad for the cultural community, sad for the diverse and under served communities we'd created programs for, sad for the children who we'd hoped to start forming into artists, or more creative thinkers, or appreciative audiences (and leaders) for the future. No, that would just make me sad. Sad and tired, for, with each passing year that these areas are not addressed, the job becomes harder, so much harder.

I am not angry that those programs we (and I mean the collective we) worked so hard to create will play second fiddle to programs created elsewhere - momentary responses to perceived immediate needs. Surely, there will be happy people here and there, some progress may be made. I will not be angry, but I'll be experiencing something that grows close to outright cynicism. I'm starting to see this province (to use a health care analogy so as to make the point more meaningful) as a patient riddled with cancer who's treatment has been to cover the visible signs of disease with band-aids. Oh look, there's a Sponge Bob band-aid... how cute.

What will make me angry, indeed furious, will be this:

For four years I have told the creative community on Prince Edward Island that we need to collaborate, we need to discuss, talk, communicate, and partner. I've told my successive Boards of Directors that we need to consult. Where people are willing to engage in productive, results based discussions we must leap at the chance.

I've said that we must research, we must become local experts in regional, national, and international best practices. We must innovate. We must not be afraid to toss out old paradigms and mechanisms. We must not be afraid to embrace new ideas and new models.

I have all but promised the arts community that, by working together, by being responsible to and for ourselves, by acting out not with shouts and angry letters but with thoughtful, considered, reports and plans, we would see success and our accomplishments would have to be recognized.

What makes me angry now is that, after doing it all a manner that bespeaks of professionalism, of quiet incremental, cooperative progress, of incredible responsibility and competence in this community, it will come to naught.

What makes me angry is that, after consulting across the province, after starting from scratch and building a Strategic Plan that was resoundingly supported here and drew nods of approval from our national peers, after building an implementation plan that directly addressed that strategic plan and also directly addressed the Province's own Cultural Policy, we will have achieved somewhere between little and nothing.

In effect, the message from Government becomes:
1) We say we want communities to work together and present common goals and needs but we don't really mean that. What we will respond to is loud squeaking voices and opportunities we perceive will bring more instant gratification.
2) The health of the arts on a Provincial level mean less than the health of a specific group or organization in a specific town, region, riding, that we like or someone we know is supporting.
3) We're quite happy to see you take up a few years of busy work if it keeps you off our back - care to return to that?
4) Shut up already. Here's a little bone. Don't like it? Maybe we'll take all the bones.

My friends, what makes me angry is that I made you all a promise. A promise that, by working together and presenting to Government a set of commonly agreed upon priorities and a set of commonly agreed upon initiatives, that we would see success - that we simply had to see success. What makes me angry is that, as we'll find out shortly, I was wrong.

Let's all wait for Budget day and see... Have a misspoken? Have I gone off on a rant where none was needed? If there is anything I'm wrong about, please let it be that. I'll gladly eat crow.