Who needs arts funding?

I’m about to say something really unpopular.

Now, before I dive right into that shallow pool, I want to preface my remarks. I’m a writer, and I also enjoy acting (as a hobby). I volunteer at a local improv theatre. I was a member of the Writers Guild of Alberta for a bit. I have lots of friends who are artists, actors and writers. I believe that more people should express themselves artistically. And I just bought my third ticket to Burning Man, one of the biggest, most outrageous art shows on Earth.

But I don’t believe that the government should fund the Arts.

I’m almost afraid to publish this post, considering the people I hang out with. I might just log into Facebook tomorrow and discover my Friends list has been cut in half. (Then again, how many people on my friends list actually read this blog? Maybe I’ll be saved by my own lack of popularity.)

So, if artists and theatres and poets don’t get public funding, how will they ever survive?

Let me tell you about an amazing art gallery I visited today: the Venturion Gallery on 11 Ave, between Macleod Trail and 1 St SE in Calgary (also known as the Shwan Galleries, after the starring artist).

What makes this gallery so incredible is not the art. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the art. In fact, it’s in high demand. But other galleries also have good art.

What I absolutely love about this gallery – what made me want to take time out of my day and talk about it on my blog – is how they not only support themselves without public funding, but they also have a business model set up to make substantial donations to charity, and amazing returns to their shareholders. (Side note: they haven’t actually delivered the cash yet, but the business model is very solid.)

How do they do it? By running it as a business. And by breaking the rules on how galleries are supposed to make their money.

First of all, they don’t sell prints – they lease prints to businesses, who then write off the monthly expense. Then Venturion takes those monthly payments, writes a cheque to charity, and saves the rest to give back to their investors.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but I’m not going to go into the details here. For more information, visit http://www.venturion.ca – and if you go down there, tell them Craig sent you.

But back to the arts funding thing again: I believe that the Arts should be funded by people that love the art. If you love the theatre, buy tickets. If you love paintings, buy one. If you love books, buy books. If you love movies, go see movies.

Good art that people love, tends to make money. Bad art that nobody cares about, does not make money.

And if nobody cares enough to buy it, then that tells me we don’t need it. If I write a book and nobody buys it, I’m not going to complain that the government won’t fund my hobby; if I want to sell books, I have to write books that provide value to people.

Governments make a very poor judge of what makes a good book or piece of art. They should just stay out of it, and allow enthusiasts to decide what they like and what they should pay for.

Just my opinion.


About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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