Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Local, Vintage, Grass Roots Millennial Movement May Save the Arts

     The United States is set to have an incredibly drawn out election process. Canada is on board with the rest of the world to reduce carbon emissions, assist internationally more readily, and to right the wrongs of the last decade under the Harper government. 2016 will be a very interesting year.
      It is good to hear that Trudeau is promising to increase funding for the arts with 380 million in total. 360 million is going to the Canada Council of the Arts and 150 million going to CBC/Radio-Canada. However, as David Karasiewicz of the Definitely Superior Art Gallery points out, even with this increased funding, cuts over the years have been so dramatic that a few publicly funded arts organizations have had to close their doors. They were living a bare bones existence for too long and could no longer fulfill their mandates to support their community. DEFSUP does well with their fundraising campaigns, like the Hunger, but without it they wouldn’t be able to operate. They are running a very tight ship.
     So what can us artists in 2016 expect? It’s not likely that there will be some kind of new national art movement with sudden public appeal. It’s not likely that the television media will suddenly decide to balance arts coverage with sports coverage. It’s not likely the provincial or federal Liberal governments will discover a billion dollars seconded in some hidden account and invest in the arts.  For artists to survive they will likely hold on to their day jobs.
     However, there is potential if artists across the country join the movement that celebrates the authentic, the vintage, and rejects the more commercial corporate domination of our lives. Star Wars, which reached the billion-dollar mark in earnings a couple days ago is both a mega-corporate effort, but also a success story, celebrating what is vintage. You’ll know what I mean if you see the film and compare the plot lines of this remake to the 1976 film.
     Yes, the Millennial movement, where adults in their twenties and thirties want to celebrate what is vintage, natural, and authentic are falling in love with slower less exasperating times. This includes the desire for locally grown foods, which has expanded into gastro-pub successes where atmosphere is important. These venues celebrate culinary culture for its diversity.
     Where previous generations sold their vinyl records for CDs many young people today are willing to shill out thirty dollars for a flashy new record album. Or sift through piles of albums that are easily thirty years old, yet somehow don’t seem old enough to be declared “vintage.” What’s great about walking into New Day Records and Accessories on St. Paul St. in the North Core is not only the feelings of nostalgia generated, but the sudden appeal of the latest album cover art.
     The renewed interest in the vintage has also generated some very diverse, flashy and rich imagery. It almost makes a Generation X guy want to buy a record player. This new movement has also generated a renewed interest in sound, the kind of quality sound that some of used to listen to with speakers that stood floor to ceiling.
      This interest in the vintage has caused writers and sociologists in the U.S. to refer to this new movement as “Generation Yawn,” where the interests and pursuits of the Millennials are more akin to their grandparents than any other generation. The lifestyles of the pre-sixties have the appearance of being worry free and less complicated. The interest in arts and crafts and being self-sufficient makes sense when the Canadian economy is turning into a big joke where the Canadian dollar is incredibly weak and the cost of housing and rent is abnormally high, cutting dramatically into average Jill and Joe’s earnings. Self-sufficiency becomes more of a necessity. But it doesn’t feel good to have no choice in the matter. After all, the last thing we want to believe is that we have no free will. So, in a way this current movement is a practical response to economic conditions, with some really great side benefits.
     With any luck there will be more grass root movements to bring more art to the people, keeping the arts alive in communities across the country where the monies made by artists can cut out the middlemen. And hopefully the added arts funding will get directly into the hands of artists who can better connect with their communities.  
     Most artists have day jobs and the lucky few of us who do make a living as artists don’t have an easy time of it. We have our good streaks and some of us have supportive fan bases for our work. Steve Gerow who has set up his booth at the Country Market always seems surprised by his success. He does have a full time job, but he loves interacting with the public Saturday mornings. Steve has found multiple ways of packaging his art to make his work accessible to almost any person’s budget, inspiring other artists to do the same.
     There are a litany of examples of artists in town form which we can learn to better interact with our community. Hopefully the support from our politicians, local businesses and media will continue into 2016. I know I’m looking forward to the New Year. Happy New Year!!

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