Provincial commitment to arts and culture a boon to university community
Newfoundland and Labrador’s distinct culture was promised a sustaining boost
on March 27 when the province released Creative Newfoundland and Labrador:
The Blueprint for Development and Investment in Culture. The document contains
a commitment to, among other things, greater support for education and professional
development and training in a diverse range of artistic and cultural arenas.
“This is literally going to change the profile of the arts in Newfoundland for the foreseeable future. I think it’s a huge step, a huge recognition by the government,” said Prof. Ken Livingstone, head of the School of Fine Arts at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, upon hearing the Williams government would invest $17.5 million in the arts over the next three years.
“The people who are going to benefit the most from this are the young working artists of Newfoundland, the vast majority of whom are graduates of this school,” Prof. Livingstone added.
Memorial University of Newfoundland is mentioned several times in the blueprint as an important partner in fostering the continuing vibrancy or arts and heritage. Within the section that outlines the strategic direction in Creative Education, it was noted that: “Memorial University and the post-secondary system have the potential to become powerhouses and incubators of artistic practice, cultural dissemination and creative enterprise.”
Dr. Tom Gordon, director of the School of Music, calls this a document of great vision. “Premised on the belief that creative activity and cultural identity are essential to a just and progressive society, this blueprint for the 21st century erects a future on the imaginations of creators and tradition-bearers.”
Noting that the strategy recognizes the value of professional artists and heritage workers to society, he said. “The echoes of this in the budget are sound evidence that the province will move to realize this vision. And it is especially encouraging to see that Memorial University’s extraordinary resources in the fine and creative arts, as well as in heritage disciplines, are being summoned to collaborate in this brilliant undertaking.”
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College principal Dr. John Ashton believes the announcement augers well for students, graduates, faculty and staff.
“Over the last number of years, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College has established a reputation as a centre for the creative and performing arts in Western Newfoundland. As an academic and artistic community we celebrate the unprecedented commitment to funding for the arts,” he said.
The blueprint also names Memorial as a key participant in safeguarding the province’s intangible cultural heritage, which includes the stories, customs and knowledge that people pass along as part of their culture. According to Memorial folklorist Dr. Jerry Pocius, who has been working in this subject area for several years, the province and Memorial are co-ordinating a living heritage forum that will bring international experts and local heritage participants to the St. John’s campus in June. This conference will allow participants to share in developing recommendations for government policy in this area.
The full text of the Creative Newfoundland and Labrador blueprint is available by clicking on the Strategic Cultural Plan icon on the Tourism, Culture and Recreation website at tcr.gov.nl.ca.
With files from Leslie Vryenhoek and Connie Boland.