Why does it seem like the only time I post anything to this blog lately is when I get my knickers in a twist?
Perhaps it's because I am creatively and physically blocked right now.
Perhaps it's because I am turning into that cranky old blogger who has nothing better to do than bitch.
Or, perhaps it's because so many stupid, petty, oppressive and small-minded people are doing so many stupid, petty, oppressive and small-minded things around me lately. The list is never-ending,
and here's another one: At 11:30 this morning, the faculty of the Visual and Performing Arts programs at our local college (Keyano College) were rounded up and given 15 minutes to clear their offices, then escorted from the premises by security. They were not met with by the administration and gently informed that their programs and jobs had be cut. They were not given pink slips. They were not even notified by email that this was their last day at work. They were escorted out. By security. Like common criminals.
These people had done nothing wrong. The plain and simple truth is that the Board of Governors and the new president of the college crunched the numbers and the arts lost out to in-house training provided for the oilsands industry. Plain and simple. Money talks, and the arts walk. Every. Fucking. Time.
It does not help that I read this little essay on the perception of a "cultural elite" from Salon this morning, either. It speaks directly to the American experience of the arts, but the principle applies here, too. For those who do not wish to follow the link, here is a brief summary: Art is something that children do. It is a nice hobby for housewives and retired people. Anyone who wants to be a professional artist is actually just trying to avoid having a real job while they live off of our hard-earned tax dollars. Artists are "the other"-they are not regular, hard-working folks like you and me. They do not belong in our country.
Now, I consider myself an artist, and I don't know about you, but I think I work damned hard. I work 8-10 hours a day, if not longer, at my art. I do not apply for an endless string of government grants. I use the money I earn to pay my mortgage and buy groceries and make car payments and give my kids braces, like regular folk. I PAY TAXES. I am a regular working person, just like Joe Lunchbox, and I do not feel that I am entitled to special privileges because of what I do. It's my job, just like being an accountant, or a doctor, or a truck driver. Or a college president.
I am now one of a fistful of people who are making money in "the arts" in this community. And I am not making "a living". I am making money. Modest money. Nor am I making my money in the community I live in. I have to travel hundreds of kilometres before I can get paid to do what I do. And the way I make my money is to teach. I teach people who dream of making art, of being creative, of living a life that is satisfying to their soul.
And that is all the young people of Fort McMurray want to do, too. Not every kid who sings in a school choir is going to be the next Justin Bieber. Not every kid who gets their artwork put up on Mom's fridge is the next Picasso. And to be a working artist, they don't have to be. Why shouldn't they have a chance to explore the art that makes them feel complete in an educational setting close to home. Why are we sending our best and brightest away?
Two of my three very artistically inclined children had to do just that. And one of them was educated at Keyano College, in the very program that has now been slashed. He, among other alumni, IS making a living (though a meagre one) as an artist. My daughter had no other options, she had to leave this community to become a make-up artist, and she is now thriving in the fashion scene in Vancouver. These are two home-town kids who could have added richness and variety to the community, but the opportunities were dwindling. And now there are none.
So, Fort McMurray Moms and Dads, if you want your kids to stay in town, don't give them dance classes or piano lessons. That sort of thing has no future here.
Teach 'em to drive a truck.
'Cuz that's what Keyano College wants them to do.