Arts and Belonging
by Stuart Reid, Executive Director
Did you know that 38% of Canadians don’t feel as if they have a stake in their local community? We all care about our communities and want them to be welcoming, but, how do we bring everyone into the fold? That compelling statistic and the 2015 research supporting it prompted Community Foundations of Canada to undertake a multi-year commitment to explore the concept of “belonging” and particularly how a sense of belonging creates an inclusive community.
On April 25 of this year, a report called Arts and Belonging was released, co-authored by Community Foundations of Canada and the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA). This fascinating study brings together data on participation in all the arts — performing arts, dance, theatre, storytelling, festivals, literature and the visual arts. Arts and Belonging contains lots of information that paints a picture of how the arts play an essential role in community building, connecting neighbours and families.
The report shows that the arts aren’t just found in Canada’s big cities, but are also an essential element of life for rural and remote communities. It states that, in small towns and rural areas, cultural activities facilitate interaction, build skills and relationships, and help to create a vibrant, forward-looking environment that has the potential to counter the draw of larger urban centres.
The arts also teach us what it is to be a Canadian, so they are a bridge to belonging for newcomers to our country. The report tells us there is still work to do in creating more multilingual culture products and services — the demand is quickly increasing. Statistics show, for example, that programming in performing art centres remains largely based on European traditions.
The arts present modes of sharing and learning that can bring together Indigenous and settling cultures. The arts have always been essential to Indigenous communities as a means of connecting with their language, knowledge and stories. Among First Nations youth, 85% feel that traditional cultural events are very important or somewhat important in their lives, as reported in “Arts and Belonging”. The arts generally provide a sense of identity for many of Canada’s minority communities. A full 93% of people from official language minority communities feel it’s important to their own identity to access a dynamic arts and culture community in their own language and to pass that on to the next generation.
It is so interesting to consider that 87% of Canadians agree or strongly agree that arts and culture help us express and define what it means to be a Canadian while 95% of Ontarians believe that the success of Canadian artists like singers, writers, actors and painters gives people a sense of pride in Canadian achievement. And 92% of Canadians believe arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions. One concerning statistic in the report states that only 43% of Canadians say the number of arts facilities in their community is good or very good, and only 53% think their existing facilities are good or very good. We need more cultural hubs and facilities that support the diversity of cultural life in Grey Bruce.
I urge you to have a look at the Arts & Belonging report to see how important the arts are in creating inclusive communities that make everyone feel that they belong. You can download the report at http://communityfoundations.ca/artsandbelonging/.