VIEWPOINT: Supporting local arts should be a top priority

By Yana Fedyanova 

Ottawa is in the throes of a transformation to become a world-class arts and culture hub.

Two major initiatives — one to bolster the city’s overall cultural assets, the other to make Ottawa a renowned “music city” — represent an ambitious bid to remake the capital’s image from boring government town to dynamic arts and entertainment centre.

Our capital has the talent and potential to flourish in the arts – if given the opportunity and means to do so. This is why these initiatives need to be a priority on our local government’s agenda.

The Ottawa Cultural Alliance collaborated with the City of Ottawa to champion a Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Culture and Heritage in Ottawa — a blueprint for the continuing development of Ottawa’s cultural assets.

The OCA is a network of six umbrella organizations, which collectively represent Ottawa’s cultural sector. The alliance includes members such as Heritage Ottawa and the Ottawa Arts Council, among four others.

The alliance has asked for the City of Ottawa to continue funding the action plan to be able to invest in local culture and build cultural leadership.

The initiative focuses on strategies to broaden the community’s access to local arts, encourage local artists to create and work in Ottawa, revitalize public places through the arts and build artistic opportunities in Ottawa.

A major initiative in the plan is an arms-length feasibility study meant to examine whether a new leadership model will be recommended to promote investment in Ottawa’s cultural sector. City council approved the funding to conduct this community-wide study.

The first phase of public consultations took place this winter, with the second round scheduled to take place this spring.

The independent consulting team, from Lord Cultural Resources and Nordicity, have been tasked with digging deep into Ottawa’s cultural and related sectors to better understand the needs of our cultural community.

In a city dominated by politics, it’s never been more important for local arts and culture groups to come together as a united force to work towards promoting existing assets and embracing new opportunities.

The city already produces excellent artists and performers, nurturing them in its own high schools, universities, galleries and night clubs.

But we need our city to provide our artists with the means to stay here and thrive.

In a national capital, it’s easy to neglect arts and culture. But the OCA initiative —  along with soon-to-be launched Ottawa Music Strategy, a three-year plan to support the growth of the city’s music industry — represent a significant investment in creating a capital with a new vibe.

Ottawa has the potential to become a world-class creative centre, and it’s a potential we should work hard to realize. These initiatives could put Ottawa on a global map when it comes to arts and culture.

Not every theatre performance or painting will end up on display as a nation-wide attraction, but that doesn’t need to happen. It’s important to give local art the chance to be conceived, created and appreciated by the local community, too.