Art Matters Forum - Sudbury

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Art Matters Forum on Art’s Ability to Breathe New Life into our Communities

Sudbury, Ontario, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thank you, Your Worship, for welcoming us with the warmth and kindness we always attribute to the vibrant city of Sudbury.

It gives my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, and I great pleasure to dedicate this, the 50th Art Matters forum, to you, our dear Franco-Ontarian friends, in recognition of your tremendous cultural vitality.

Unfortunately, Jean-Daniel has sprained his lower back and needs to rest, so he was unable to accompany me. But he is certainly with us tonight in spirit and in heart.

There is a lively Francophone presence here, one that is embodied in each of you, as well as in the many institutions you founded that have allowed the language and culture you are so proud of to flourish in people’s hearts.

I believe the Théâtre du Nouvel Ontario, where we have gathered, is a beautiful expression of your willingness to set down roots, to express yourselves and to ensure your future.

Yours is a history of resistance.

We know that artists create, no matter what, driven by a passion that nothing could ever take away.

And I think this is even more obvious among artists in minority communities, who must demonstrate twice the talent, ingenuity and determination—or stubbornness—to have their voices heard.

Although you know the great effort it takes to preserve its spirit, nothing has ever stopped you from singing, writing, playing or living in French.

Every battle and every victory has helped strengthen the ties that unite you.

They say that this theatre is the result of creative inspiration, heightened identity awareness and focused energy.

Who better than you, then, to tell us about art’s ability to breathe new life into our communities?

We have a lot to learn from the people of Northern Ontario, with whom we share a strong attachment to a language and a culture that are not only methods of expression and communication, but spaces to come together, to show solidarity and to celebrate.

That is the spirit in which we would like this Art Matters forum to take place. Art Matters was designed expressly as a place for sharing and reflecting on issues affecting the key sector of arts and culture.

We have two major linguistic communities of tremendous wealth in Canada.

And I believe it is possible and desirable for our cultures to learn and benefit from each other in the name of greater diversity.

That is why I am delighted to have representatives from the region’s Anglophone arts and culture community with us here today.

I would also like to thank the team from the Théâtre du Nouvel Ontario, including its artistic director, Geneviève Pineault, who welcomed us so warmly, and our panellists, who agreed to fuel our discussion. Not to mention the very dynamic Miriam Cusson, who delighted us with her presence at an Art Matters forum held in conjunction with the 2008 Governor General's Literary Awards. The theme of that forum was “A Passion for Reading.” Tonight, our theme is “Art’s Ability to Breathe New Life into our Communities.”

I believe the example being set by the Franco-Ontarian community is a model that communities across the country and around the world should look to.

Thank you for accepting our invitation.