Culture a Building-Block for Regional Prosperity, Says Atlantic Arts Leader
February 27, 2014

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Herménégilde Chiasson
, former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick and current professor at the University of Moncton, said recently that we need to put the power of culture behind the promotion of a new mentality in Atlantic Canada.  “Culture drives the creation of new products and especially a new image…a new confident identity,” stated Professor Chiasson.

Speaking at a DOC Talks conference in Fredericton, the noted poet and playwright added that “the arts are still not seen as an industry that contribute to the growth of the economy and the promotion of an image worth millions in benefits. I have come to the bitter conclusion that we need to campaign and make ourselves more effective in the political arena.

“We are identifying the Atlantic region as a culture of defeat, because our fishing wealth has slipped away.  We are now seen as the poor parents of one of the richest countries in the world.  But this reality will happen everywhere: like our fish, the oil will run out in the west.  The constant is that we will be stuck here with our imagination --  but imagination that we need to jump start.

“The problem is and has always been the promotion of these products. More people attend cultural than sports events, and yet if you look at the media, sports news and activities get free exposure while the arts sector has to pay for its advertisements.

"Coming hard on the heels of the report from Acadia University president Ray Ivany," said Barry Gander, Co-Founder of I-CANADA, "this advice will help pull us away from the doomsday scenario in Now Or Never.  We need to re-build confidence and re-think our culture, which is the message in Professor Herménégilde's presentation."

“Success is an attitude that can be shaped instead of measured,” stated Chiasson.  “Everybody loves a winner, which is not the image that is usually carried in the media about Atlantic Canada.  We have not made the top 10 restaurants in the Air Canada list. Good food is in the MTV area, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver.  We have a huge image deficit and we need to craft and promote an image in relation with our reality instead of competing with other people standards.

“We have yet to find a way to make sure that artists are considered as an essential part of society and for that reason expect and deserve the benefits that other functions enjoy for their contribution. This might mean to add an amendment to our social contract but I have no doubt that it will for it has to come.”

According to Chiasson, the arts in the Atlantic region have always been at the center of innovation and should be used to the region’s advantage. He advises the creation of a new conception of awareness and responsibility  -  especially within organizations.

“There are new findings about the role of artists within our organizations.  The artist-manager is adventurous, changing, intuitive, entrepreneurial, imaginative, visionary, unpredictable, emotional, and inspiring.  It has been concluded that an artist-manager should be at the top of the organisation, because every organisation needs dreams to inspire and to motivate its team and that the dream should be at the top of the organisation.”

A positive sign is that the importance of “culture” on the political agenda is rising:  “During the McKenna era, for the first time, it was mentioned in a political debate in New Brunswick. Art has been at the center of a new discourse on identity for the Acadians and First Nations, in stories that are hard to voice but that speak to the soul instead of an endless debate that no court judgement can really settle.  If we are to maintain ourselves as a society, we need to support or at least show some interest or concern for the art being produced here. Otherwise, we will become eternal consumers of an imported reality.”

Professor Chiasson concluded:  “We live our lives for beauty. We work to buy subsistence but once this primary need is satisfied, we want to surround ourselves with beauty. From housing to clothing, from commodities to personal care, from our ways of expression to our ways of living we are collaborating and we long for the creation of an orderly, harmonious and peaceful world. We are against whatever could destroy this fragile equilibrium. We understand that art is a field of research, of comfort and of communication. It’s a wonderful way of being alive and giving that life the beauty that we deserve as individual and as a society. Living here, in this region, in this day and age, is no different than in the rest of the world. We should never settle for less. Go with the flow but the flow is going somewhere, to that somewhere where we should be.”

For a copy of Professor Chiasson’s remarks please contact:

Barry Gander

EVP, Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA)

Co-Founder, i-ATLANTIC