Recently, I was interviewed for an article for ArtsHub which is Australia’s leading portal for professionals working within the arts, where a community of approximately 80,000 registered users; 13,000 premium members; and hundreds of dedicated contributors read, write and share their knowledge and passion for the industry.
I was interviewed by Deputy Editor Madeleine Dore for an article they were working on called “O Canada, how can we be like you?” which can be found at: http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/features/grants-and-funding/madeleine-dore/o-canada-how-can-we-be-like-you-251095
I thought that since I only had a small part of my interview enter the article, that I would public the full interview here to allow the entire context of what I was saying be understood. I know that it is hard to write a large reference article like ArtsHub did and really appreciate the press they gave myself and Canada. I also want everyone to see my thoughts and understand where my statements come from. Enjoy!
Madeleine Dore: How would you describe the current state of the Indigenous arts sector in Canada?
Clayton Windatt: Historically the Indigenous Arts sector has struggled to establish any permanent resources from government due to systemic issues rooted in the problems of colonization. The Canada Council for the Arts has worked hard for many years to establish funding for the Indigenous Arts sector but also to build more autonomy for the Indigenous Arts department within their organization. The current state funding for the Indigenous arts sector is full of infrastructure development with many conversations about making plans for outreach and action that have been a long time coming. It is no secret that relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples have been “tense” for a long time and the Canada Council for the Arts is making efforts to ensure that funding will be administered by Indigenous people and on the terms that Indigenous people are prepared to receive them. Coming on the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation commissions report and recommendations, the Canada Council has turned its focus to building better relationships throughout Canada. The Indigenous Arts sector still faces many issues as a result of historical problems but there is a sense that things are happening and that good things may be on the horizon.
Madeleine Dore: What does support for Indigenous arts sector from Canada Arts mean to your community?
Clayton Windatt: As an Métis person working and living on Nipissing First Nation territory, I think my region benefits very much from the support received. I work with Aanmitaagzi Storymakers which is a multi-art organization focusing on Dance and Theatre through community engagement and the projects that they conduct raise the quality of life dramatically here. Without the funding they receive from projects, I do not know how they could operate at a high capacity, paying for professional artists makes a huge difference to any projects outcome and impact.
Madeleine Dore: What do you think makes a healthy arts sector?
Clayton Windatt: A healthy arts sector is one where a variety of different people and approaches all co-exist working towards the benefit of the public. This entails being critical of society and challenging people to reflect on themselves and the world they live within. It forces people to think, dream and celebrate. Government involvement is as hands off as possible while ensuring that all measures and reports are being received. A healthy arts community is a mix of representations and expressions and all people are considered equal within this place.
Madeleine Dore: What do you see as key development areas for Indigenous arts in Canada?
Clayton Windatt: The Indigenous arts in Canada have very few physical locations that are dedicated to Indigenous arts and controlled by Indigenous peoples. There are many organizations that are very well established and are now turning their attention towards reconciliation projects or even creating their own Indigenous arts departments. Sadly, many of the motives behind these projects are financial in nature and empower existing non-Indigenous people to retain control over funding dedicated to the Indigenous arts. The Canada Council for the Arts has gone as far as stated that Indigenous projects must prove that the control and management of an Indigenous project remain in Indigenous hands. Its great but also explains an ongoing struggle over control.
Madeleine Dore: How do we convince the general public that the arts are integral to society?
Clayton Windatt: Convincing the public that the arts are integral is a comprehensive approach representing many opinions. It is better for the quality of life and it impacts the economy. Economic developers use this analogy frequently with me about a region or place needing to be alive in order for it to be attractive. Having good roads makes the roads safe but that is never a consideration about whether someone wants to live in a space. People base their decisions on living in a place on the activity they see within that place. Nothing else influences the decision. A lake is nearby but the use of the lake is the motivator. Having a region full of activity and arts engagement makes it attractive and valuable. I enough activity takes place, people from other areas also want to travel there and it becomes a tourism destination. Outside of the obvious community benefit of freedoms of expression and healthy interactions, the money involved in supporting the arts is an investment that gives a huge return. There are many studies about the benefit to raising the quality of life through the arts or the financial returns that a region gets but in the end, its all about whether a region has a vision for how it engages in the arts. With a strong vision and encouragement, the arts thrive. Without committing to the arts and caring about the work we are all doing, the arts become detached. Investing both financially and socially through action.