Platform: Arts and Culture for a Lively City

By Tooker Gomberg.

Thank you for being with us here today. We are joined by a number of artists and cultural workers as well as by members of the media. Welcome.

As I have mentioned before, the Gomberg For Mayor campaign is about issues. It is about attractive ideas, and a vision of a sustainable Edmonton.

Today I will share with you the second plank in our platform: Arts And Culture For A Lively City. Culture and arts are certainly key elements in our goal of building a great city for the 21st century.

A thriving arts scene is fundamental to a high quality of life. As well the arts have significant, positive impacts on the economy. Last week we spoke about Building The New Economy. A vibrant arts scene in Edmonton will help make the new economy grow.

Last year Economic Development Edmonton completed a limited analysis of the economic impact of 78 Edmonton arts organizations. They concluded that the economic impact of these groups on the province of Alberta was almost $95 million. Now that’s a good investment.

I have proven my commitment to arts and culture. In 1995 Artsvote recognized that commitment, and awarded me with an A grade for my active support for the arts, including my defending the 1% for Art Policy in new city buildings. I am a longtime festival fan and as City Councillor I enthusiastically supported the establishment of the Edmonton Arts Council. They have since gone on to do excellent work.

Arts and culture exemplify sustainable, “value added” economic activity. They use the raw material of human creativity and energy to transform these no cost, renewable resources into dance, song, crafts and other globally marketable services. Similarly, the plastic and visual arts transform relatively low cost materials into high value finished products.

The natural world is a great source of inspiration and themes (whether rhythmic, sonic or colour) and should be valued as much for its restorative, healing, spiritual and inspirational properties as for its more tangible raw materials.

Today, as candidate for Mayor of Edmonton, I commit to you that I will show leadership in finding ways to foster a diverse, and unique local arts and cultural scene. Here are ten specific commitments:

  • First: As mayor I would work to find ways to weave the arts, cultural celebrations and symbols into our daily lives. Culture is a living, breathing part of our being. We could experience it at lunch, on the bus, and while shopping. Instead of blank concrete walls, we could have murals and poetry.
  • Second: I would support the increase of arts funding to $5 per capita, the Canadian average, up from the $3.60 Edmonton commits today.
  • Third: Edmonton could become an “arts incubating city”. By hosting exchanges between artists of diverse perspectives and cultures we could spark new and creative insights into our future.
  • Fourth: I would support the establishment of an Arts Park where artists could create, interact and exhibit their work on a permanent basis.
  • Fifth: Artists need affordable places to live and work. I will fully support the Arts Habitat project and help find several downtown buildings that could be converted into affordable lofts and studios for artists.
  • Sixth: As mayor I would highlight a cultural “hero of the week” to recognize innovation and excellence. The Internet would be used as a tool, along with the traditional media, to celebrate our achievements.
  • Seventh: As mayor I would ensure that all Edmontonians have access to cultural expression. Music, dance and other arts and cultural activities do more than enhance creativity: they develop confidence, leadership, intelligence and concentration. Too often low-income families do not benefit from the performing arts because they cannot afford private lessons. As Mayor I would further develop subsidy programs such as Edmonton’s Fee Reduction Program to ensure fair access for all children and adults.
  • Eighth: I believe that Edmonton’s history, and especially the stories of our aboriginal community, need to be better told. I commit to working with aboriginal elders and leaders to find ways to broaden Edmontonian’s understanding of the history of this place.
  • Ninth: I will work with the arts community to facilitate the revitalization of the downtown core.
  • Tenth: Inspired by the governments of Adelaide, Australia, Oakland, and Ann Arbor Michigan and over sixty communities around the world, I will work to initiate a Green Map Of Edmonton. This map would identify special places in the city, and would help us to incubate our own special, local culture: the high grounds, the quiet spots, the most beautiful views, the buried streams, the outdoor amphitheaters, the special gardens, the meeting places.

In closing, I would like to extend a special thanks to the many people and groups that have shared ideas with my team, and helped us to better understand these issues. In particular terrific insights have come in from around the world via our Internet community.

I look forward to exploring these and other ideas for enhancing the cultural, and creative wealth of Edmonton. Thank you.