Arts and the Election – Liberal Party

SAA interviewed the NDP, Liberal and Saskatchewan parties about their plans for the arts sector if elected. Following is the interview with the Liberal Party.

Grant Karwacki, Liberal Party

Current candidate in the riding of Saskatoon Nutana

As interviewed by Steven Ross Smith, for the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance

October 24, 2007

SAA:: What is your party?s sense of the value contributed to life in Saskatchewan by our artists and arts organizations?

Grant Karwacki:: There are two aspects that the arts provide. First and foremost is art for its own sake which creates quality of life and helps citizens reach their fullest expression ? and I think that?s the primary one. The secondary one is a bit more utilitarian, and is an economic argument, is that arts in and of itself has become an industry, so we have cultural industries which are economic drivers and attract tourists and also help brand Saskatchewan to the outside world. You can look at the visual arts where we have the Perehudoffs and Dorothy Knowles and we have the plastic arts where we have Joe Fafard. We have some very talented musicians, no question, and up and coming filmmakers. So those tend to become drivers into today?s economy, but I wouldn?t want to put that in precedence over art for art?s sake.

SAA: Does your party have a policy, a vision for the sustainability of arts in Saskatchewan, today, and in the future? If so, please summarize that vision.

Grant Karwacki: We certainly support the report that Joanne Crofford came out with on the music industry and I think that?s a very good template to follow for the other aspects of the arts. What?s really needed is a cultural mapping project that will allow us to take in to account where we?ve been as a province, where we?re at now ? kind of taking inventory of the stock of what?s happening now ? and maybe even a little future forward thinking, maybe even visiting other venues and seeing where trends are going and how we can capitalize and capture some other world movements. I think everyone wants to think of themselves as citizens of the world, and arts promote that sort of understanding and promote those linkages with the outside world. A cultural mapping project would be one important aspect of that. The second aspect is that we need to promote the ability of artists to do their art, but we also need to have a business side ? promoting business management, protection of intellectual property, property rights, selling their work in the commercial market. With those two things the government can offer real assistance. The third thing that government can do ? which I don?t see a lot of ? is the purchase and placement of art in public spaces by the government to create more human spaces. This is necessary as we deal with urban density ? creating people friendly places with public art. And finally we should push forward on the status of the artist legislation.

SAA: Does that vision include a plan or model to support artists and arts organizations through public funding for the arts in Saskatchewan? If so, please summarize that vision.

Grant Karwacki: I think there has to be a bit of both. We see the philanthropy that does occur in other major centres, such as Toronto ? in the architectural projects that are going forward, where there is government seed money. By providing this, governments send a signal that cultural industry is important, and then the private sector and individuals step up to the plate and contribute to make their community better. There is a great deal of appetite out there for the private sector to step up. I look at some of the major corporations in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver that do donate and also the major philanthropic individual donations, and I think that for the people in Saskatchewan ? if we want to have a quality of life and if we?re going to attract world class people in our universities and in careers in the mining sector ? those people want to enjoy great art and a great cultural lifestyle, so they do have a stake in it as well.

And I think another interesting thing about art is that it bridges the socio-economic divides. So we see, for example, the Saskatoon Native Theatre Company, we see SCYAP downtown on Saskatoon, we see StreetCulture in Regina ? these projects are government funded but there is also some private donation there too ? these are a great way for people who might feel disenfranchised or who feel on the outer edges of our particular cities or our downtown cores to express themselves in a way that is very creative and positive.

SAA: What immediate initiatives is your party proposing, if you?re elected, to ensure and improve the circumstances of the artists and arts organizations in Saskatchewan?

Grant Karwacki: We hope there will be a minority government so we can wield some power. We?d ensure that the Crofford report is implemented. There?s a lot of concern out there in the music community that all this good work was done and it might be abandoned if the Saskatchewan Party takes power and cuts that. Good work should be non-partisan and cut across political lines. I think that is one piece that should be put forward and fully funded. The second thing which I spoke of earlier is the cultural mapping project, and that shouldn?t cost a lot, between two hundred and three hundred thousand dollars, that could easily seed and bring together cultural community leaders to bring forward that sort of inventory and a visionary look at what?s down the road for us and into the future.

SAA: Many arts organizations are struggling to do more, to meet their visions and mandates, with dollars that have not kept pace with rising costs and inflation. These organizations depend on the work of artists. Individual artist?s income has been determined by various studies to be, on average, approximately $15000 per year. This amount is below the poverty line. What are your party?s ideas for bettering the socio-economic circumstances particularly for individual artists and thereby for Saskatchewan organizations?

Grant Karwacki: One of the great things that could be done for artists is to ensure that there are communities and incubators set up ? places where they can work and where they can access resources. The other thing that is attractive about Saskatchewan is the smaller town and villages where you do see certain artists doing their métier, for example, pretty world famous is the Emma Lake School, the Kenderdine Campus. The government needs to continue to support this through the University of Saskatchewan. And we also have the pottery community in Meacham, where the cost of living is not as expensive ? I think that?s a real attraction for artists ? to come and live where they can afford to do their arts or crafts.

For example ? the one down in Riversdale ? the Ideas Inc ? that would also be a great space to open up for artists. And we have the chronic underfunding of the Mendel ? they want to restore one of the artist?s houses down by the riverbank but they simply don?t have the cash to do it. The government left them in the lurch with the funding shortfall for their architectural plans. Moving forward with projects like this ? those are real instances where the government can do real things. The Mendel is too precious a resource to get things like this wrong. I think everyone needs to work together to make things like this happen.

I think art, culture, recreation ? the culture items need to have a separate line in the budget. It needs to be broken away from curling rinks in small town Saskatchewan. I don?t think that?s particularly appropriate, so we need to get that separate line item. And funding from that needs to leverage municipalities, it needs to leverage private donations, it needs to leverage federal government to also participate in these things. I don?t think it?s any one level of government that can go it alone. Certainly the provincial government can help send those signals with line item funding in the culture budget.

SAA: You?re aware that the Status of the Artists legislation was held up in the last session of the government. Does your party support this legislation, and will your party endeavour to introduce and pass it when the legislature resumes?

Grant Karwacki: Yes we would support and endeavour to pass the Status of the Artist legislation.

SAA: Does your party support allowing professional artists access to economic and social programs, benefits and rights: for example workers compensation, collective bargaining, training, pension and social assistance benefits?

Grant Karwacki:: We see no problem with giving those particular rights to artists as workers.

SAA: How can the artists and arts organizations work cooperatively with your party?s representatives to achieve dialogue and positive outcomes for the arts community in Saskatchewan?

Grant Karwacki: That?s exactly it ? it?s a dialogue. It?s an ongoing conversation. We try to make ourselves available. We try and go to public events and have one-on-one private meetings, and I think that conversation is necessary because quite frankly I am not an artist. We really need to hear from the artists and professionals who are living it every day to tell us which direction is best.