City must continue to do more to grow arts and culture sector

By Lindsay Advocate

We’ve come a long way on the arts and culture file in Kawartha Lakes since 2014. That’s when then-Ward 7 Councillor Brian Junkin posed an astonishing question.

Kawartha Art Gallery executive director, Susan Taylor, had just asked council for stable funding. Junkin wanted to know why the gallery didn’t just sell the permanent art collection housed in the gallery to raise some money.

Selling off assets is always the battle cry of the imaginatively impaired, no matter the level of government. (Highway 407 anyone?)

Since then, things have improved. Council has approved a cultural master plan. It has set up the well-received Arts and Heritage Trail. We have an arts and culture officer. Most recently the city has agreed to hire a curator to work with local museums to help with grant proposals.

There’s no doubt the city must do this and more to help over-stretched volunteers in a sector that provided 527 jobs to this area in 2017, according to census data. But one curator hired to help so many groups in the city will be a tough job — not that we have an actual job description yet.

But as our feature story in this issue reveals, there are plenty of nearby municipalities that do far more, such as own and operate museums and provide stable funding. Although it provides other forms of support, Kawartha Lakes provides no consistent annual funding for cultural organizations.

The truth is, we still fall short of properly supporting and showcasing arts and culture in this city. Even basic things show how far we have to go, like taking the time to correct the Explore Kawartha Lakes website listings that include museums that no longer exist and confusing maps that no tourist could use effectively. Strangely, there’s also a link to public art policy rather than examples of public art.

Arts and culture is not the sphere of the elite; it is something we all enjoy and that bonds us. The city must continue to do more for a sector that will be in more demand than ever as our communities grow.

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