Terre Chartrand Presentation To Regional Council on The Creative Enterprise Initiative Funding

17 Dec

First, I would like to draw attention to the presentation on the screen. During the last CEI presentation, the arts community were dismayed that the presentation showcased art from outside of the region as an example of what could exist here. I asked artists for the use of images and received over 300 photographs of events, art, and packed out crowds gathered to partake in art in Waterloo Region.
Thank you, Councilors for allowing me to come and speak with you tonight.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have lived in Waterloo Region for the better part of 20 years – I owned a house in Waterloo, I rented in Cambridge, I lived in Doon, I spent 7 years downtown Kitchener, and now live in beautiful New Dundee. I moved here as a tech worker, worked as a teacher, and have now been a professional artist for going on 10 years.
In my time here, I have seen arts go from vibrant and thrumming, to something of a difficult battle field of closed door meetings discussing what we need to do to end the single most difficult problem we have had to tackle in our careers. This question of the CEI has plagued us for years. Many of my colleagues approached it with hope. We are, after all, artists.
You don’t go into art to make money. You don’t go into art thinking that anything will be easy. But you only stay in art because you are an unquenchable optimist, truly believing that things will get better. You rapidly learn to budget tight funds and you build something out of nothing. You stretch countless dimes and make pennies bleed. You continue to apply for grants, and work endlessly to keep building your practice.
Art has this remarkable knock on effect for making money for everyone but those who are closest to it. The artists struggle, and they struggle here enormously. The organizations who present and support most directly have to stringently build and defend budgets that always present shortfalls. Restaurants, cafes, and small business around art thrive and are well supported by the artists and their excited crowds.
In this case, most embarrassingly, and perhaps very unique to Waterloo Region, over 1 million in funding over a few years has been poured into an initiative built when the Region recognized that the arts, from individual practitioner to large institution was critically underfunded. 1 million dollars, and just a few years later, and we all still are.
We have dire infrastructure issues with a lack of galleries, studios, jam halls, theatres, rehearsal space and then also seeing these diminish monthly. We are lacking money from private sector after most of it was siphoned into this new venture built to “help the arts”. We have seen almost no growth in sustainability and innovation for small to medium organizations – those that animate the buildings that are also struggling to place programming and fix their roofs, maintain their HVAC for the audiences that pack in to see what we build.
The CEI is not, nor has ever been an arts organization. It has built a few, desperately transient bandaids that we rallied together to build before, but now are left with less. I maintained a studio for over 6 years through artist run initiatives. The CEI maintained studios for 2 years, and then never managed to build sustainable infrastructure, sustainable funding, sustainable resources in any way at all whatsoever. It’s barely an arts supporting initiative, and certainly needs to no longer be viewed, or called an arts organization. Nor should it take part in being funded as one, whether that money comes from a dedicated arts budget or otherwise.
I am taking this platform right now as an artist in Waterloo Region to state that the CEI is not an arts organization. I am calling on my colleagues to do the same. I am calling on my colleagues to turn their backs to this thorn-in-the-side failed project and recognize that they are not among us and their failure was not ours. We were not the CEI and they were not us. They don’t represent us. Arguably at this point, and stated in their own literature, they are diverting good money to duplication.
I no longer have a studio. I can’t afford one even though my career is stronger than ever.
I am taking this platform right now as an artist in Waterloo Region to make it clear that we are not culture industries, big film or music. We animate your region daily. We would perhaps benefit by their presence, but we are not them.
I am taking this platform right now as an artist in Waterloo Region to declare that we are not content creators. We are not glorified advertisers or marketing initiatives. We make works of art.
I am taking this platform right now as an artist in Waterloo Region with a brand new non-profit in the arts to say that I speak because I have nothing left to lose.
There is no capacity for me, or my other emerging colleagues to make things here. I have watched countless colleagues leave, and I am on the verge of doing the same. This bleed will not end with me when I go.

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