By Jazminn Hintz
The stadium - the story of the 2012 Regina City election. Other important issues where pushed aside in an election that named its single-button issue before the election even began. From that point on battle lines were drawn between those who supported the stadium and those who didn’t.
With a one-topic election other important issues weren’t given fair speaking time. In the end, it was the candidate who fully supported the stadium, Michael Fougere, who came away with the win. Marian Donnelly, the candidate known for her arts background, came in second.
With a stadium voice winning the election, the arts representation is gone and the city will have to find a new voice, other than the mayor, to speak for those interested in the arts.
Donnelly was unable to make a win for the arts community, a boost she and arts advocates thought was needed. Fougere didn’t have the same priority because arts wasn’t in his platform as it was Donnelly’s. Fougere named sustainable growth, tax dollar value, safe community and strong leadership in his platform.
Yet the City of Regina website lists arts as important, stating arts and culture are “tremendous assets that are vital when building a creative sity.” Arts isn’t Fougere’s priority but that doesn’t mean he can ignore them.
As the director of the Art Gallery of Regina, the arts are dear to Karen Schoonover, but she predicts hope for the arts in Regina won’t come from Fougere.
“(Arts funding) will be lessened but certainly I think the new members of city council have a much broader focus than the outgoing (councillors),” she said.
Despite Schoonover and Donnelly’s concern about a potential decrease in arts funding, there has actually been an increase to city arts funding in recent year, coming from a council Fougere was also a part of. The City offers community grants for artistic and cultural festivals and the pot has grown. In 2010 the City gave a total of $120,300 to 17 different festival programs. By 2012 that has risen to $161,300 and 18 festivals. It isn’t as much growth as arts advocates would like to see, but it’s moving in the right direction - and with the city flourishing economically this growth is likely to continue.
It seems citizens agree. In the 2011 survey, residents said they thought the city was paying attention to their arts needs. Survey respondents gave the city 3.49 out of 5 in the performance of Regina supporting arts and culture, and being satisfied with city arts facilities and services. Of all the economic city issues covered in the survey, arts was the only category where the performance, 3.49, out-ranked the importance, at 3.46. One can’t say the arts have been ignored when more people see positive outcomes than those who value the arts as important.
If the Regina arts scene is in need of help that’s where the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance can step in. The organization promotes arts policies and support measures that encourage a healthy environment for the arts. It works with politicians, government and the public to establish the importance of arts in society.
Looking forward, Schoonover said in her mind it’s up to council to make the changes she thinks are needed.
“I think it will be business as usual. However, I think there are several new members on city council (who)...seem to have more of a focus on arts and culture.”
Fougere certainly isn’t the arts representative Donnelly would have been but he is only one man and his isn’t the only voice that matters. Regina’s arts future may rest with new councillors Young, Hawkins, Fraser, Burnett, Findura, Murray, Bryce, O’Donnell, Hincks and Flegel.