Friday, February 06, 2009

You Can't Have a Creative Economy Without Creative People

Yesterday the Praxis Theatre Blog pointed to articles in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail on Canada's creative economy (especially as it relates to Ontario, but this is good general information wherever you are). The contradictory report calls for increasing Ontario's creative economy but at the same time points to falling incomes for virtually all artists.

From the Globe:
"The study reports that artists over all are working for near-poverty-level wages, with an average annual earnings in calendar year 2005 of just $22,731, compared with $36,301 for all Canadian workers – a 37-per-cent wage chasm.

In fact, of the 140,000 artists analyzed, 43 per cent earned less than $10,000, whereas in the overall labour force that percentage was 25 per cent. The study notes that the $22,700 average is only 9 per cent higher than the $20,800 that Statistics Canada has identified as the “low-income cutoff” for a single person living in a city with 500,000 people or more.

What makes the situation even more distressing is that artist earnings have been decreasing since 1990 – a decline likely to intensify over the next two years. While average earnings for the overall labour force rose by almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2005, artists experienced a slide of 11 per cent – to $22,731 from $25,433 – at the same time as the cultural-sector work force tripled in size. Actors experienced the sharpest decline in average earnings among artists, dropping 34 per cent to about $18,000 in 2005.
They also include this handy chart to explain the current situation.

Now, when the report talks about the 'creative economy' they don't mean arts and culture alone. They are also talking about research and development, medicine, engineering etc., but to suppose you can have a 'creative economy' without strong support for the arts is like suggesting that you can have a strong food service sector without investing in agriculture. In order to have a creative economy there must be a creative atmosphere and you cannot have a creative atmosphere without a strong arts sector. Creativity breeds and inspires creativity and as Albert Einstein (rather bright and creative himself) said 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Sure you have to have people who know things, but the creative economy is built on people asking 'what if...' .

I've already offered a few suggestions that I believe would help considerably. One thing that should be very clear though is that the attitudes of Stephen Harper cannot be seen as less than an assault on Canada's future. Investment in sports, though it may fall under the broad category of culture does not contribute to the creative economy and with North American manufacturing continuing it's decades of decline it becomes more and more clear that what will be left going forward is the creative economy and the service sector (most of which will serve the creative economy.)

Canadians, or those Canadians who do not already know, have to stop thinking of the arts as a combination of star studded galas and slackers lounging in coffee shops and see it for what it is. It is the sector of Canada that asks 'What if..' and that trades in and inspires creativity. In short it is the segment of Canadian life that will pave the way to the the future if supported, or abandon Canada and head to the states to make a living if it is not supported.

Arts Gala

Also keep in mind...

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