The elections and the lack of support for the arts in the city of Saskatoon

By in Culture

Given the hardships the pandemic has caused, Saskatoon’s music and arts scene has never been more important for bringing people together.

Artistic and cultural activities are known to foster communities through sharing common interests and creativity. Organizations to support artists in the city have been popping up for the past decades, starting with the Saskatoon Art Club in 1925. There’s also the 25th House Street Theatre, which consisted of University of Saskatchewan drama department students, and The Shoestring Gallery, which were both established in 1971, along with many others in between. 

With so many arts and cultural activities appearing in the city, it was once hailed as a “city of festivals,” with diverse celebrations such as Saskatoon Fringe Festival and Taste of Saskatchewan.

It is for these reasons that this election is important to many local artists. Most of the mayoral candidates have brought at least one plan for Saskatoon’s local arts scene and community, but long-term plans that would bring support to the city’s active arts community do not seem to be a priority. 

Charlie Clark, who is looking to get re-elected, has stated he will start a $250,000 fund encouraging activity through the winter called “Take it Outside.” This will be available to community associations, including art organizations. He also plans on building and supporting new facilities that will promote local engagement from the Saskatoon community. He would like to focus on the growth of a new Downtown Entertainment District.

Rob Norris has a plan for a one-time tax break for sports, arts and recreational groups. It has a total cost of $5 million and will hopefully provide relief to associations who are working to create activities for the public. This is a one-time solution though, and does not do much to increase engagement within the arts community. 

Zubair Sheikh’s goal is to increase tourism in Saskatoon, which includes increasing entertainment attractions. However, this does not necessarily mean more support for local artists. He has also mentioned he would like to look at offering city facilities to artists and entertainers at a discounted rate. 

Don Atchison mentioned that in order to recover from the losses the pandemic has brought, the city needs to develop a new downtown area and entertainment district. Although this can help artists, he has not stated how he plans to do this. 

Mark Zielke and Cary Tarasoff have not announced any platform points for arts and culture.

At a glance, none of this year’s platforms shows a lot of care for the arts.

Although some of the candidates have programs or some financial support in mind, most are centered on bringing the city more money, rather than providing support and increasing community engagement. Given the history of Saskatoon’s involvement with the arts in recent years through SaskJazz Festival, plans to host the 2020 JUNO Awards, and the building of the new Remai Modern, the candidates should be prioritizing support for events and artists more.

Since its founding in 1907, the University of Saskatchewan has also played a role in the creation of the arts community. People like Kate Hobin, the programming coordinator for performing and arts in 1988, have invested in the culture that the university still creates today, by partnering with local art associations and breaking down the barriers between the university and the rest of the community.

With restrictions on attending bars and events, artists have been struggling financially for the past six months more than ever. Looking at the support and funding these candidates have set up in their platforms, it is clear that this community will favour the one that provides the most support for the arts.

Holly Gilroy

Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editor