Platform: The Gomberg for Mayor Platform Plank on the Arts

The Gomberg for Mayor platform plank on The Arts

A vision for the arts.

A thriving arts scene is fundamental to a high quality of urban life and is one of its most important community builders. As well, the arts have a significant positive impact on the economy: a vibrant arts community helps the economy grow.

As an Edmonton City Councillor, my proven commitment to the City’s arts and culture got an A-grade from the local arts community (Arts Vote) and I vigorously defended a 1% policy for art in new city buildings.

The arts are the ultimate value-added economic activity. They use the raw material of human creativity and energy to transform no-cost renewable resources into dance, song, theatre and other globally marketable resources. Plastic and visual arts transform low-cost materials into high value finished products. Toronto’s 200,000 artists and cultural professionals have an economic impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They are the lifeblood of community development, cohesion and diversity, celebrating tolerance and respect.

But the City of Toronto has not reflected, in spending or planning, the arts community’s contribution. The City spends less per citizen on culture than such cities as Vancouver and Montreal (as well as New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo and San Francisco) and has undertaken little cultural planning since amalgamation.

The City should acknowledge the essential role of culture in all its development strategies. While the draft Official Plan includes public art, design and preservation of historic buildings as a major thrust, little action has been taken. Painted moose are not enough, especially when historic buildings continue to be torn down.

As Mayor of Toronto I would ensure the following:

1. The importance of the arts to Toronto – economically, socially and culturally – must be reinforced by acknowledgement in the City’s Official Plan and integrated into the other City plans and strategies, including the Strategic Plan, Economic Development Plan and the Social Development Strategy.

2. The City of Toronto Culture Office should be empowered to provide leadership in the aforementioned area, a function it could not perform without a managing director for the last two years. Alongside the city’s arts communities, the Culture Office must immediately spearhead this comprehensive action plan and implementation strategy for culture in the city. Our Culture Plan should include enriched programs for the arts, heritage and cultural industries, and should be reflected in the City’s new Official Plan and other strategic planning documents. It must be developed quickly to dovetail with such city priority initiatives as Waterfront Regeneration.

3. In terms of infrastructure, the amalgamated City inherited ownership or responsibility for numerous valuable community assets, many of them in need of repair, as well as an extensive wish-list for new facilities. But it has no cultural facilities policy. A clear priority is to finalize a Cultural Facilities Master Plan during the next year to avoid the history of facility crisis management and to ensure adequate cultural infrastructures in neighbourhoods throughout the City. Toronto must quickly respond to the opportunities presented by recently announced federal and provincial government shared-cost infrastructure programs.

4. The plan must tackle the challenges posed by Toronto’s overheated downtown real estate market, which is promoting re-development of properties traditionally used as low-cost rental space for artists and not-for-profit arts organizations. Artists need affordable places to live and work; I will support Arts Habitats projects and ensure buildings are converted into lofts and studios for the arts community.

5. As Mayor, I will direct the introduction of new programs to enhance neighbourhood cultural development throughout the city. Programming in public places and proactive policies to support cultural industries (especially film) and cultural tourism should be commonplace.

6. Grants must be accessible to organizations of all sizes and types in every part of Toronto and to artists across the entire city. Public art policies, with secure funding, and special events are an important part of this. So is spending on promoting the arts to other levels of government, businesses and citizens.

7. I commit to doubling per capita cultural spending by 2010. I will work to find ways to weave the arts, cultural celebrations and symbols into our daily lives, and develop Toronto as an arts-incubating city, hosting exchanges between artist of diverse perspectives and cultures to spark new and creative insights into our future. I will establish “art parks” where artists can create, interact and exhibit their work on a permanent basis. I will highlight cultural heros of the week to recognize excellence and innovation, using the internet and media to be used as a tool to celebrate achievements.

8. All citizens must have access to cultural expression. I will ensure subsidies are available for low-income families to ensure fair access to these opportunities.

Music, dance, film, theatre, painting, sculpture and other arts and cultural activities do more than enhance creativity; they develop confidence, leadership, intelligence, concentration, communication and expression. I look forward to exploring these and other ideas for enhancing the cultural and creative wealth of all Torontonians.