Last Friday, Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre), Chair of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee announced the Creative Capitals Initiative – a plan to design the next generation of Toronto’s Culture Plan. The existing plan was launched in 2003 and contains 63 recommendations, one of which was to increase Toronto’s per capita arts investment to $25 by 2008. At the current $18 per Torontonian, progress has been lagging on this front and on many other targets, though according to the City, 87% of the original recommendations have been addressed. Today, 10 years after the first plan began taking shape, it’s clearly time to reflect on how Toronto will take its next steps in fostering an active and healthy cultural scene, raising its profile as one of the world’s foremost creative capitals.
The Creative Capital Initiative will be headed by several heavy hitters from both the arts and business sectors. Co-Chairs include Robert Foster (CEO Capital Canada), Karen Kain (Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada), and former federal Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice (Vice-Chairman, CIBC). They will be joined by an Advisory Council which includes: Nichole Anderson (President and CEO, Business for the Arts), Cameron Bailey (Co-Director, Toronto International Film Festival Group), Claire Hopkinson (Executive Director, Toronto Arts Council), Che Kothari (Executive Director, Manifesto Community Projects) and Gail Lord (Co-President, Lord Cultural Resources). The Committee will also be advised by Richard Florida (author and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute) and Jeff Melanson (Special Advisor to the Mayor – Arts & Culture).
Invited focus groups and public consultations will be taking place throughout February with plans to present recommendations at the May 2011 meeting of the Economic Development Committee. Consultations will include a wide scope of issues such as cultural infrastructure, direct investment in artists and arts organizations, digital media, sustainable spaces and cultural attractions, among others.
Given the absence of an arts platform in Ford’s mayoral campaign, this initiative is a welcome invitation to participate in the shaping of a new future for the sector. Developing the next generation of the culture plan was a recommendation made by ArtsVote and other factions of the arts sector during the election campaign, and we are wise to take full advantage of the opportunity to participate in this process. Renewal within the ranks of City Council also affords us an opportunity to reinforce other key recommendations (such as new investment in direct grants to artists and arts organizations) as well as bring to the table new ideas, offer new solutions and consider new initiatives that will help make Toronto’s arts and culture scene more vibrant and sustainable. Strategically positioning arts and culture as a key economic driver and social asset will help us assert our value in wider city-building agendas, ensuring that arts and culture are an essential investment in Toronto’s success.