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  • Dan Duguay

Art Infrastructure Vs. Art Makers

Updated: May 8

Recently, Calgary announced the expansion design of its most prominent art space, Arts Commons. They're using the acronym ACT (Arts Commons Transformation) to describe the project. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to bring this project to fruition. When the project was unveiled, the predominant messages I saw on social media were "congratulations" "amazing", and "Calgary's a world-class city with world-class architecture". I can understand the excitement of the downtown being transformed. It's probably the same excitement people get when a new arena is announced. But here's the thing...

How does this project help the artists? Especially the ones who call Calgary home. These "arts endeavours" seem to make architects, engineers, construction companies, and arts administrators more money, but does it help the artists pay their bills? Does it help theatre companies turn a profit? Shouldn't the bottom line for any arts initiative be to put money into the pockets of the art makers? (I'm being slightly facetious here as I know the bottom line is to increase tourism, the GDP, and respectability).

Some of the tenants of Arts Commons are struggling to stay open while local artists question how this is going to make their lives better. The "Field of Dreams" quote "If you build it, they will come", seems to come into play. Who will truly benefit from this transformation? If you answer the artists, I'd say you're probably wrong.

This post intends to find someone to help me understand how this will help the artists.

I'd love it if "they" could say: "For every dollar we put into the pocket of the art infrastructure makers, we will put an equal amount into the makers of the art". That would make sense to me.

An arts community where artists can make art without getting a second job would make sense to me. More cultural activation would make sense to me. Better pay for musicians/poets/actors/storytellers would make sense to me. More people making art would make sense to me. I am probably being shortsighted but I'm not seeing how ACT will be beneficial to the ones making art, and shouldn't that be first on the arts agenda?


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