His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond - Art Matters Forum- "Citizens, to the arts!"

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Art Matters Forum: “Citizens, to the arts! (Re)Connecting citizens, artists and the arts”

Montréal, Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Let me say how pleased we are to be holding this public forum in Montreal, in conjunction with Culture pour tous, surrounded by some well-known faces who have been and still are active partners in our various projects.

At the beginning of the Governor General’s mandate, we decided to hold a wide variety of arts awards ceremonies – performing arts, visual arts, literature, and so on – as occasions not only to celebrate the excellence, talent and creativity of our artists, but also to bring together men and women who care about culture, and every time, we discuss together the challenges and issues of an ever-shifting cultural universe. So we have held over 40 of these Art Matters forums, in every province and territory of Canada, and also abroad during State visits.

It means so much to be here together today, to talk about the theme "Citizens, to the arts! (Re)Connecting citizens, artists and the arts." First of all, because today we announced the winners of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. They are men and women fully engaged in creation and for creation. They are artists, organizers and patrons who help bring creation closer to their communities, and make it resonate throughout the country and beyond our borders.

It also means a lot to be here today at the Society for the Arts and Technology. While young people may be abandoning the so-called classical arts, according to a recent study on cultural practices in Quebec, they are not deserting the field of creativity, and are in fact investing, inventing and sharing in it, thanks to technologies that are now an integral part of our culture.

And finally, being here at the heart of this performing arts community, the Quartier des spectacles, is also an opportunity to salute initiatives that are making the city a space of harmonious co-habitation and creativity.

Over the past 30 years, we have seen the flourishing of new spaces, new dance companies, theatre, music, new libraries, festivals and public events: in short, a burgeoning cultural offering. But let us ask ourselves:  has that whetted citizens' appetite for culture? 

Almost all studies on evolving cultural practices in Quebec, France and the United States indicate the same trend:  yes, attendance of cultural activities has increased, but that does not mean that there are more culture enthusiasts. Rather, it often means that spectators, visitors and readers are "consuming," as it were, more cultural products, thus boosting the statistics.

Every year, 41% of Canadians attend a performance. Between 1992 and 2005, a 20% increase in performance attendance was observed. But that increase was often the result of the massive influx of newly retired baby boomers. Those who already had cultural habits are now able to devote themselves more to them now they are retired.

So does that mean that efforts to democratize culture and make it more accessible have failed? Does it mean an end to the utopia of culture for all, and widespread disenchantment? Not at all: Every day, creators, teachers, managers and researchers work successfully to whet the public’s appetite for culture. They propose taking roads less travelled by, off the beaten path, exploring all new platforms to reach citizens where they live, and inviting them to these enchanted places.

And that is what Art Matters is really all about: a forum for dialogue where we can share the results of our experiences, the impact of new initiatives, in short, where we can create networks to make our projects sources of inspiration. So I look forward to hearing from you, Monique Savoie, Patricia Perez, Frédérick Gravel, Gisèle Rucker, Simon Brault, and all of you here, to discover how you are making real the exhortation: "Citizens, to the arts!"

Thank you! And now let's begin our discussion.