What if the Arts went on Strike?

Last night, over Twitter, a friend asked “What would happen if arts went on strike? What do you think?” The question is asked in reference to the cuts to arts funding that have been enacted in BC by the Liberal Government there, and the subsequent “ArtsStrike” rally that was held in Vancouver.

I didn’t think that this was the kind of question that could accurately be answered in 140 characters, so I thought I’d take it here.

So, what would happen if “the arts” went on strike?  The cynic in me says that very few people would notice.  As much as I like to believe that the arts are an important part of Canadian culture, I don’t think that most people feel the same.  They might go to a play once in a while, but the arts probably don’t impact them on a daily basis.  Because the arts don’t perceptibly impact them every day, an arts strike would fly under their radar.  Additionally,  if they did notice, it would be because a politician (say for example…Stephen Harper), would use this as another opportunity to point out the pampered artists and score points with people who read the Sun.

Since most people don’t regularly go to the theatre, or to see a dance performance, or to the opera, or to an art gallery, an arts strike won’t impact them.  They will still have TV, and radio,  and movies.

The only way an arts strike could work, is if all aspects of the arts were to strike.  Yes, no theatre, dance, opera or art galleries.  But to be effective, all scripted TV shows need to go off the air too.  And no movies.  No bands playing live shows, or heard on the radio.  But there needs to be more.  It’s all well and good for Canadian TV shows and Canadian movies and Canadian music to go off the air, but there would need to be an effort from across the border.  There would need to be an agreement, that the Canadian border was an arts picket line.  No American TV shows, no American movies,  no American music would be played on the airwaves entering Canada.  In this way, the strike would impact every Canadian.

This however, is not really something that could be implemented.

The problem is one of perception.  There is a perception that the arts are for the elite.  Being something “for the elite” then, it follows that people who are not of the “elite” do not relate to the arts.  Before an arts strike could be effective, it would be necessary to change its perception.

Perhaps that is the more necessary activity, then.  Not a strike against arts funding cuts, but rather a fight against apathy; a fight against the perception that the arts are something only for the rich or the elite.  A change in the way that the arts are perceived.  This would be the more valuable result, and would, with the support of the “ordinary people” to use Harper’s phrase, perhaps government funding would be assured, or even better: would no longer be needed, as enough people would be engaged with the arts to make the funding obsolete.

That’s my nickel’s worth.

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