Charles Scott, a Brampton resident, filmmaker and patron of the arts, is sounding the alarm on behalf of the entire arts community in Brampton, saying that Brampton City Council is woefully underfunding the arts and risking the financial success of the businesses and quality of life of residents who call the city home.
A recently approved budget by the City of Brampton offers little funding for the arts, and Scott blames Council for failing in their responsibility to the community.
“We don’t have a way for our emerging artists to gather,” says Scott. “Our artist-run centre, Beaux-Arts, has no core funding from our city; even a town like North Bay, where I am from, has a municipal art gallery and three artist-run centres funded by the municipality.”
Arts funding in other cities has shown measurable economic benefits, often helping to revitalize urban areas, all while enhancing the cultural experience and improving citizens’ quality of life. With politicians always needing to balance budget constraints and pressure from residents who decry tax increases, Scott believes the city needs to look at the big picture.
“In Ontario, $28.5 billion of GDP is created by arts and culture. Over 300,000 jobs. Far more than from things like sports, yet Brampton is whole hog into sports, building giant arenas and soccer centres.”
Pointing out the recent $1.5 million given to the privately-owned Brampton Beast hockey team, Scott says the city needs to balance its support for the community more effectively to ensure we get value for taxpayer dollars. “We’re paying $13,000 per home game, and there’s some kind of mystery marketing that we are getting out of it, and, as a citizen I don’t see it.” There is no marketing metric to measure the benefits of the Brampton Beast deal, and there has been no observable value shown to date.
Over the past three years, the City of Hamilton has invested an additional $1.5 million into its arts community on top of earlier funding, and the effects have been profound, with areas previously plagued by problems like vagrancy and issues related to drug and alcohol abuse, seeing increased use and new life.
“Hamilton has changed completely,” says Scott. “The downtown of Hamilton is vibrant.” Scott points out that art galleries there are busy and the effects spill over into the rest of the city. “They get more people through the door on a Friday evening than probably come to an art gallery in Brampton in a year.” Over the next few years, Hamilton plans to invest an additional $500,000 every year towards arts and culture.
Scott believes the city is losing out to other municipalities. “In Brampton right now, we have people creating music. We have young artists working, and what happens is they all end up going to Toronto or to Mississauga,” says Scott. “We need to create an arts community here in Brampton, and that comes with some core funding.”
The fundamental question for policy makers becomes whether there is a real benefit to funding the arts community in Brampton, and a recent rash of restaurant closures in downtown Brampton may indicate that something is missing.
“Why are restaurants in a town of 600,000 people, quality restaurants, going out of business?” asks Scott. “They are going out of business because something is not attracting them to the downtown, and that could be the arts.”
With both a provincial and a municipal election scheduled for this year, Scott wants residents to consider their choices carefully, especially as candidates ask for their vote. “I don’t think that anyone should vote for a politician that doesn’t put arts and culture into their platform in this day and age, in the economy that we have, in Ontario.”
“We cannot be a global city without arts and culture, and right now, Brampton has almost no arts and culture,” warns Scott. “The groups that are working in Brampton are struggling, and the philosophy of funding is wrong. We need to change that philosophy.”
See the full interview with Charles Scott below via Brampton Focus, with host Michael A. Charbon.