Understanding the Arts Ecology of Saskatchewan

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A SAA Research Project


“Our culture, in all its diverse forms, is an important asset for maintaining our high quality of life, sustaining economic growth and building pride in our communities.”

Dustin Duncan, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, 2010


This perspective on the symbiotic relationship encompassing culture, Saskatchewan communities and their long term sustainability reflects a widely held perception shared by artists as well as policy makers. In the past ten years it has become increasingly common to speak of an “arts ecology” in reference to “the arts, culture, and entertainment infrastructure of a region; the local support structure on which that infrastructure depends; and the broader environment in which it operates.” But exactly how much do we know about the symbiotic relationships between the cultural community and communities at large—or between artists and the arts community and the rest of the cultural community?

The Saskatchewan Arts Alliance has concluded that we need to know more about the particulars of the Saskatchewan Arts Ecology, and that through that knowledge we will come to understand better the contribution that the arts make to the sustainability of our current economic growth, the cultural fabric of our communities and the arts themselves. Such a study is particularly timely because the quality of life the province can offer has been cited as a key factor in attracting and retaining the many new people from inside and outside Canada needed to take jobs and sustain the current economic climate. Yet the resulting increases in the rural as well as urban population—along with the greater cultural diversity these people are bringing to the province—make an understanding of the current arts ecology especially important. Does the province’s population increase reflect an increase in the number of artists living and working in the province? How are artists and the resources necessary to support their work distributed across the province and is that distribution sufficient to support needs and expectations regarding the quality of life in Saskatchewan communities as well as the economic benefits derived from the arts and the climate of creativity and innovation to which they contribute?

The SAA has set this area of research up as a top priority, and given the necessarily broad scope and long term nature of such a study, it is enlisting the help of a multi-disciplinary team of university-based and community-based researchers as well as a group of partner organizations. With individuals from the Social Sciences as well as the Fine Arts, the research team will be drawn from both Saskatchewan universities and some of the partner arts organizations. Outside of the two universities, the SAA is inviting two other organizations, SaskCulture and the Saskatchewan Arts Board, to participate as partners. In addition to these partners, a broader Committee of Understanding will be set up so that individuals from the arts community as well as other stakeholders who are likely to find the research results useful can provide input with respect to the formulation of research questions and the dissemination of the knowledge generated by the project. These partners and members of the Committee of Understanding will have much to do with seeing that the results of this study have direct application with respect to such things as arts programming and public policy.