After Arts Day: Our Future with City Council

Meaghan Davis is our Manager of Communications & Enrichment. She is also an organizer on Arts Day at the City, and a steering committee member for ArtsVote Toronto.

With all that’s going on at City Hall right now, it makes me so incredibly HAPPY to have good news to report on civic life in Toronto.

November 8, 2013 was Arts Day at the City: an annual initiative led by TAPA that brings members of the arts community to City Hall to champion our issues with Councillors. A tremendous amount of hard work, enthusiasm, and passion was put into this project by the organizers, and by Arts Day’s many supporters among Toronto artists, arts workers and audiences.

I want you to know how successful your efforts have been:

This year, a record 29 Councillors took meetings with us, either on Arts Day or in the days preceding / following it – Councillors who are committed to keeping up with the business the City has with its citizens. There was a lot to celebrate – like Council’s unanimous commitment to get our municipal arts funding up to $25 per capita by 2017. There was a lot to report – including incredible growth in arts activities in wards all over the city (you can read the full Arts Day message here). And we had a clear message for Council: commit to the second phase of funding promised for the 2014 budget.

The response: it’s happening. An increase in funding is scheduled to be part of the 2014 budget (even budget chief Frank Di Giorgio said so!).

Cllr Di Giorgio

Students at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts

Students at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts

This is a HUGE victory for Toronto’s arts community. It’s an encouraging development in our relationship with municipal government. And it’s a sign of how strong Toronto’s arts community is: this kind of progress happens because of your participation and civic engagement; because of critics within our community who have challenged how we advocate for our interests time and again, demanding we step up our collective game. Progress happens because organizations like TAPA, TAC/F, Arts Etobicoke, Beautiful City, BfTA, East End Arts, Lakeshore Arts, North York Arts, Scarborough Arts, and Urban Arts rally for events like this; because our colleagues at the provincial and national levels are working hard to do the same; because of grassroots activity like Theatre Passe Muraille’s ingenious EA Nights, which bring dozens of City staffers out to the theatre; because people like you write to your reps in government and tell them what’s important to voters.

High fives all around!

Little artists at Lakeshore Arts

Little artists at Lakeshore Arts

I want to share this success with Peggy Baker Dance Projects followers because, if you’re at all like the people in our office, you’re feeling frustrated and infuriated at the state of politics in Toronto. I must admit, the day before Arts Day was the most discouraged I’ve felt in the past three years of working on this project. You might remember November 7 as the day the day the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star released a second, awful video of Toronto’s current mayor. I thought Arts Day – and every thing we’ve all been working toward – would be lost in the chaos.

I was wrong.

Progress is possible regardless of how big the distractions are – we can see it happening right now. It’s worth celebrating. And it’s worth asking: what can we do next?

I don’t believe change happens because of one person. One person can make a difference (or a lot of noise…), but change is a collective action. It’s up to the community to decide that the status quo isn’t good enough.

So please keep it up! 2014 is an election year, and ArtsVote will definitely be a part of it. We hope you’ll get involved (email me), and that you’ll help us continue to champion the things that make Toronto a great place to live.

Meaghan

PS: Want to feel good about your city? This might make you smile: http://wearetoronto.tumblr.com/#3

Sheridan Theatre Class of 2015

Sheridan Theatre Class of 2015

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