skip to Main Content
So What Exactly Is Cultural Democracy?

So What Exactly is Cultural Democracy?

We have a problem. And when I say we, I am talking about all of us who work in the arts in Canada, especially the performing arts.

The problem is a lack of public will for the arts – in our communities, our governments and in the minds of the public at large. We are seen as exclusive and we are perceived, like it or not, as a special interest group. Is it any wonder that we struggle financially and that most people don’t understand the value that we bring to society?

The things we create and provide – theatre, symphony, opera, dance, museums, art galleries – are not available to people who can’t afford them.  We are seen as elitist when compared to the outputs of the creative industry – music, film, interactive digital media and literature – any of which you can enjoy in the comfort of your living room.

So what can we do about it?

We can be more inclusive. We can start to acknowledge that everyone is creative, not just those who are paid for it. And we can start to work more collaboratively with other sectors, including our own. We can break down the barriers between professional and community artists, we can work with educators, health care providers, and champions of social justice.  If we can look beyond our own struggle for survival, we will see that we have much to contribute to a happier, healthier society.

I encourage you to take a look at what’s happening in the the UK where something called Cultural Democracy is on the rise.

Towards cultural democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone is a 15-month research project that presents a distinctive vision of how to build a cultural life for the UK that is valuable for everyone, and made by all. While acknowledging the vital importance of the publicly funded arts and the profit-making creative industries, the report casts a spotlight on their relationships with everyday creativity – a plethora of cultural activity that is happening around the UK but which is often overlooked. It demonstrates how the arts, creative industries and everyday creativity are not separate but deeply interconnected, enabling each other to flourish.

Canada has been slow to adopt this way of thinking about the arts but it is flourishing in the UK and impacting their cultural policies and their funding models. I suggest we pay attention.

Brenda Leadlay
Executive Director
BC Aliance for Arts + Culture

Back To Top