A couple of days ago on Facebook, an invite went out to people with ties to the Regina arts community about the idea of having a march on Oct. 30 to draw attention to the importance of the arts to our society and the need to re-evaluate some of the decisions that municipal and provincial governments across Canada, and the federal government itself, have made in recent years.
Not only have these decisions placed significant financial pressure on artists and arts organization, they’ve almost always been framed in such a way as to mis-represent the reality of living and working as an artist these days, and to deliberately dismiss and demean the very real value that the arts provide to our society in economic, social, educational, physical/mental health and other terms.
With Hallowe’en the next day, they idea was for supporters to dress in white sheets a la ghosts and march from City Hall to the Saskatchewan Legislature in protest. In the words of local organizers:
The white sheet symbolizes the blank canvass, the shroud of death and profound loss. The image of ghosts gathering, then walking in silence represents the erosion of spirit and vitality for Canadian society caused by short-sighted cuts to arts funding.
As people started signalling their attention to attend, though, a bit of a firestorm erupted with some posters on Facebook expressing concern that people moving through the streets of Regina in white sheets would be reminiscent of scenes that were all too common in Saskatchewan and other locations in North America in the early part of the 20th century of Ku Klux Klan members terrorizing racial minorities and other marginalized communities like Jews, Queers and Catholics. The point was also made that with racism still very much a fact of life in our society, the protest, no matter how well intentioned and symbolic from the arts community’s perspective, would be hurtful to people in Regina who live with the legacy and current reality of racism.
Here’s a link to the initial Facebook post and subsequent comment thread here.