We Demand! (Arts)
We demand the following arts-related terms be met in 2011
Did you read the other two features? The We Demand ones? Here’s a third. That’s right. We’re doing a thing here.
1.) WE DEMAND REALISTIC FUNDING FOR THE ARTS In our September Arts & Culture issue we did a feature on the precarious state of arts infrastructure in Regina. We defined the term broadly to include not just buildings and equipment, but anything that prevented arts organizations from fulfilling their mandates.
Of 12 groups surveyed, six replied. Several others expressed interest in participating, but didn’t have the staff to gather the information in time to meet our deadline.
That predicament sums up the state of the arts in Regina heading into 2011.
While public funding has remained relatively static over the last 20 years, failing even to keep pace with inflation, the size of the arts community has grown significantly. While efforts have been made to increase self-generated revenue through ticket sales and sponsorships, what’s inevitably happened is that the pie keeps getting cut into smaller and smaller pieces.
With participation in organized sport plummeting, more young people are entering the arts. Unfortunately, organizations that could aid in their development too often lack the facilities and resources to develop the proper programming. Yes, there are economic stresses in our society. But when you realize that of the $52 million distributed by SaskLotteries in 2009, $25 million went to SaskSport while only $12 million went to SaskCulture, it’s obviously unjust.
Since it was built in 1984, we learned in our survey, the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre has seen attendance grow from 15,000 to 80,000. In the 2008 recreation facilities study it was flagged as desperately needing expansion — yet as of today no firm commitment has been made by the city.
The Globe Theatre, meanwhile, doesn’t even have a freight elevator. When the set and prop department are preparing for a new show they have to lug lumber, furniture and other material up three flights of stairs. And in May, Regina’s only all-ages music venue, The Exchange, suffered tens of thousands of dollars of damage when its basement flooded. It was forced to close for several weeks.
This fall, the City announced an initiative to map Regina’s cultural resources to promote maximum efficiency. While that’s a laudable goal, expecting arts organizations to wring any more productivity out of their existing infrastructure is akin to getting blood from the proverbial stone. It’s an intolerable situation, and we demand that it be addressed. /Gregory Beatty
2.) WE DEMAND A LOCAL BOOKSTORE My mother-in-law is a huge reader, so for Christmas I was going to buy her all the fiction and poetry winners from the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Awards. Good luck trying to get them at Chapters. (They only had Birdsell’s Waiting for Joe — the one author so well-known my mother-in-law may already own her latest award winner.) Oh sure, they had a Saskatchewan shelf but it mainly focused on true crime, ghost stories and coffee-table books. Some good stuff in there, but hardly the cream of Saskatchewan’s literary crop. A perfunctory effort at best. This is what happens when the only store selling new books in your city is a national chain. You get essentially the same list of titles as everywhere else. A local writing scene can’t blossom in an environment like that and good local writers will be inclined to move where the literary action is. Say what you will about our late, lamented Book and Brier — at least they had their local writers section well stocked and up front. An independent bookstore isn’t just something that’s nice to have in a city. It’s a vital component of a healthy cultural scene. /Paul Dechene
3.) WE DEMAND CLEAR PLANS FOR A BETTER DUNLOP AND A BIGGER RPL FILM THEATRE Plans have been in the works for some time to expand Central Library. Built in 1962, it’s in desperate need of mechanical upgrades and other amenities like bigger washrooms. Focus groups have also identified the Dunlop Gallery and RPL Theatre as valued services that need to be enhanced.
In a November interview, RPL director Jeffrey Barber said further information on Central’s future would be released in early 2011.
Better get hopping — with several residential developments planned for the downtown, the number of people who will rely on Central as their home branch is set to grow dramatically.
With downtown Regina currently without a state-of-the-art movie theatre, it’s imperative that one be included in the revamped library. Ideally, the new theatre would be used seven nights a week. While the current theatre does a decent (arguably heroic) job of showcasing indie, foreign and Canadian films that typically don’t run in mainstream theatres, plenty of worthy movies still slip through the cracks and three extra nights of programming would help correct that problem.
Add a small concession and the theatre would be a magnet for culture-savvy Reginans, who like popcorn as much as anyone.
A new and improved Dunlop Gallery has similar potential. Loading and storage facilities at Central are extremely limited right now. That makes installation of exhibitions a challenge. Office space for staff and the adjacent resource centre are cramped as well, and the gallery itself needs to be enlarged to permit more expansive shows to be mounted in an attractive and comfortable setting. /Gregory Beatty
4.) WE DEMAND A DOWNTOWN FIRST-RUN MOVIE THEATRE Now that Regina’s downtown is being revitalized to resemble an abandoned Star Trek set (all you need are some people in togas or earth tones to complete the look) why don’t we bring back the movie-going glory days of 1990? Back then you could see a first-run film at the Coronet, the Capitol or the Cornwall. Sure, parking was limited and there wasn’t much nightlife, but at least the downtown felt like an entertainment destination. These days there are bars and restaurants, live theatre and arthouse movies, but I miss the times when downtown fun came with fake butter topping. /Aidan Morgan
5.) WE DEMAND THAT CONCERTS BE ANNOUNCED AND WELL-PROMOTED FOR AT LEAST A MONTH A lot of things influence how a concert will do. A Rider game, the weather, and a whole lot of other factors are important to the success of a show in Regina. But what I’d like to see, nay, demand to see in 2011 are venues and promoters that’ll get the word out far in advance and to a broad base of people.
That’s a tall order, and certainly some people do it well in Regina. In fact, some people do it well for particular shows but not necessarily others. And some genres do a lot of this way better than others. I’d like to imagine, though, that if the people lining up shows were really, really on their game, that a culture of going to concerts would build and we’d become a city that’s a definitive live destination.
What do they have to do to be on their game? A quick list: update their website regularly; get a Facebook page, with event pages that go up before the day of the concert, and promote the concert consistently for three weeks to a whole month. This could mean setting up a Twitter page to automatically update every day or two with stuff relating to the event or sending out e-mail reminders of what you’ve got going on or leaving handbills everywhere.
(And what about posters? Ever seen a silk-screened poster for a show? No? Ever see a poster for a local show turn up for sale on a website like gigposters.com? No? Huh. Imagine that.)
Bottom line: there are a ton of promotion options available and bands and their handlers can and should exploit all of them. /James Brotheridge
6.) WHILE WE’RE AT IT, WE RELUCTANTLY DEMAND THAT AT LEAST ONE LOCAL BAND GETS TOO BIG FOR REGINA AND HAS TO LEAVE We really love our bands — there’s a terrific batch right now, including Rah Rah, Library Voices, Hot Blood Bombers, Kleins 96, Orbital Express, Def 3 and Tinsel Tree. They’re all great acts, but it’s time for one of them to succeed fantastically well and leave us. We’ll miss you but you can always come back and visit and buy us all a drink. But you have to succeed because the next generation of Regina bands must have inspiration and a target to set their sights on. /Stephen Whitworth
ADDITIONAL DEMANDS! We further demand the following: that prairie dog covers the book scene more, that prairie dog covers the theatre scene more; that prairie dog just covers arts even more in general; that advertisers buy more ads to support this expanded coverage (and seriously, if you buy ads everywhere but prairie dog you’re doing it wrong anyway); that we all read more books; that we all see at least one movie at the RPL this year: ditto for theatre; that director Zack Snyder doesn’t screw up his Superman casting (seriously dude, fine with Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey!); that George Lucas turns the keys over to people who aren’t drunk and/or deranged; that the Folk Festival gives me Jonathan Richman, and if not how about Jenny Lewis, and if not can O’Hanlon’s at least bring in Matt and Kim? And finally we demand that this be the LAST YEAR OF THE ZOMBIE TREND. I like zombies too but come on guys, this is overdoing it.