CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Arts advocacy in action

By Fiona Campbell/Quinte Arts Council

Nonprofits across the province are in trouble.

That’s just one of the findings from a recent report released by the Ontario Nonprofit Network that surveyed 1,200 organizations from across the province three months into the pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 has been nothing short of devastating for organizations across all sectors: nonprofits and charities collectively reported $90 million lost in revenue, one in five organizations are expected to close within six months, and 31 per cent of arts, culture and heritage organizations expect their situations to get worse.

The impacts are far-reaching as Ontario’s nonprofit sector is the largest in Canada, collectively employing one million people and contributing $50 billion to the province’s GDP. Nonprofits leverage government money, along with donations, grants, and earned income to support communities and promote well-being. In short: nonprofits help make Ontarians lives’ better.

For our summer issue of Umbrella magazine themed “Art in the Time of Isolation: The COVID-19 issue” we asked local artists a number of questions about their lives these past few months including, “How has this experience affected your perception of the importance of art and artists?”

Here are some of their answers:

Ash Murrell, Ash Murrell Photography, commercial lifestyle photographer, creative: Belleville.

“My perception hasn’t changed a ton. I still believe that art has an instrumental way of helping everyone to appreciate life and the weirdness that it is to be human. Its ability to distract, to disarm or even dismantle beliefs is one thing I feel we’ll see more and more in the upcoming years… What this means for artists is more heartfelt work needs to be created: be playful, be different and love your fellow creators. This world in lockdown without artists would have been a terrible, lonely, disheartening place.”

Elizabeth McDonald, member Women on the Verge trio : Consecon.

“This experience reminds me that our visceral response to music, which has the power to change us, will be lasting regardless of the time we are in. History shows us that art and music and dance will always serve as the non-verbal expression of our time.”

Leigh Nash, Book publisher, Invisible Publishing : Picton.

“At the start of the pandemic, it was heartening to watch people flock to bookstores for entertainment and comfort; now, I’m watching in awe as people flock to bookstores for writing to help them understand racism and the Black experience. That pretty much says it all: books are vital as conduits for both art and knowledge.”

Georgia Papanicolaou, Artistic Director & Founder, Shatterbox Theatre : Picton.

“The arts have always helped us get through adversity. Artists document our history, our stories, they spark important conversations and empower those in our communities by giving them a voice. The arts are cathartic and healing. They bring communities together during difficult times…. Art is more important now than it has ever been and it will always have a place in our communities.”

Donna Bennet & Brian Finley, Co-founders of Westben : Campbellford.

“Art is central to the wellbeing of everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not. During times of crisis it becomes even more meaningful and obvious. I’ve always wanted music to inspire and to soothe, open and release the hearts and minds of the listener and the participant. Now more than ever we need to support art and artists. Artists and arts organizations bring economic development to communities and that is vital to us all.”

(To read more, access the digital version of Umbrella at quinteartscouncil.org.)

The Quinte Arts Council has been hosting Cultural Recovery Roundtables to get a pulse on how the arts community has continued to work and create during COVID-19. Participants’ answers inspired us with their resilience, collaboration and creativity. But they need our help to act as advocates and cultural leaders. Nonprofits, including the QAC, are working to help rebuild and ensure Quinte Region remains a thriving place to live and to work.

Local artists gave so much of themselves and their art during this frightening and stressful time of social isolation: now it’s time for the community to give back. Help us keeps arts on the table with a donation, membership or sponsorship. The need is great, but the benefits to this community are far greater.