Thursday, 14 October 2010

Advocating arts funding - Photographer calls for territorial support for exhibitions outside the NWT

Advocating arts funding
Photographer calls for territorial support for exhibitions outside the NWT

Guest comment by David Prichard
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Municipal and Community Affairs minister Robert McLeod has been quoted in this newspaper as saying money from lotteries should go only to sports and not to the arts.

NNSL photo/graphic

David Prichard is a professional photographer based in Yellowknife. - NNSL file photo

When reading this I do, to put it politely, get a tad chuffed. Why sir, should the youth in this Territory, who are talented in the arts, be denied the same advantages as those who elect sports. In some cases they choose both pursuits. The arts, like sports, provide lifelong interests and skills.

I belong to The Frozen Eyes Photographic Society, a non-profit organization that delivers skills workshops for youth in communities. Student work has exhibited across the NWT, at the Edmonton International Airport and in Toronto, where it received excellent reviews.

Volunteer-run arts organizations face the same high rates as sports events for travel, accommodation and related expenses. Currently MACA is offering up to $50,000 for assistance to sports teams. No money seems to be available for mentoring young artists from MACA.

In the course of my photographic career I have won several awards internationally, worked with the famous and, on occasion, the infamous. Nothing in my travels has given me as much of a thrill as when you see the light go on in some youngster's eyes, as they turn a bit of simple instruction into concepts professional in nature. If I have learned one thing above all else in visiting the communities in the NWT is that there is a vast untapped, if not wasted, talent in the youth.

The current mandate of the Northwest Territorial Arts Council does not allow for financial assistance to artists who obtain a show outside the Territory nor is there any provision for contingency funding should some opportunity arise between grant application schedules. How can this possibly assist in the promotion of the NWT let alone the artist?

While it may be argued that the fact the lotteries in the Northwest Territories are administered by the NWT Sport and Recreation Council solely for the benefit of sports is discriminatory, how can anybody, arts supporter or not, fail to get indignant that those youth with a talent in the arts are being denied access to public funds. All the arguments that can be made for support of youth in sports, building self-confidence, self-esteem, and skills development can be made for those youth who wish to follow an interest in the arts.

While there is a case to be made for better support for the arts as a whole in the NWT, our single great resource, youth, is all but ignored. In visiting the various communities I meet young men and women with strong language and visual skills, which, if developed, might see them become communications officers for aboriginal governments. Those who delight in the land they live on and might become involved with tourism. There are those who cast a critical, insightful eye on their surroundings. It is they who may become our reporters, our chroniclers, and our conscience.

It is with disappointment that I learn some of the youth I have tutored plan to leave the NWT due to lack of resources.

For ignoring the arts, this is a price we pay. We lose our youth, our talent, and our future communicators to the south. Mr. McLeod I implore you, do not let this talent lie fallow any longer.