Can the New Steering Committee Elevate Art in Mississauga?

Insauga recently reported that the city of Mississauga launched a new Arts and Heritage Steering Committee. A steering committee decides on the priorities or order of business of an organization and manages the general course of its operations. According to the city's press release, this steering committee's goals include identifying cultural opportunities in Mississauga and rallying the efforts of council, staff and stakeholders in executing these goals.

As I was reading the official statement, I had some specific questions that I don't think anyone has asked council or staff regarding this new committee. I reached out to Lindsay Noronha, who is a corporate communications advisor for the city of Mississauga's community services department, to ask her to provide some responses, or at least direct me to the appropriate person to ask. My questions to Ms. Noronha boiled down to three specific issues:

The steering committee was revealed to be comprised of city councillors. Are there going to be members of the public, particular with a background in arts and culture, sitting on the committee as well?

Ms. Noronha's replied that the proposed steering committee is open to all councillors, not just limited to a certain number of them, and the meetings will be open to the public. As for civilian members, she believes the final intention is to have members of the community on the committee. Currently, the terms of reference are being developed so we'll have to wait and see what criteria will be outlined for qualifications to sit on the steering committee.

I recall watching the committee when they selected members of council to be on the steering committee. All the council members were eagerly raising their hands at the prospect of sitting on another body that would add to their existing prestige. Now, I don't doubt politicians having a genuine interest in arts, but at the end of the day, putting this down on their resumes is also a sweet little additional bonus as well.

The funding mechanism for arts and culture would be part of the terms of reference to be discussed in the coming weeks as part of the alignment of the Culture and Recreation Division grant programs. But I asked if there was a specific number that could be provided.

Ms. Noronha indicated that per capita funding in culture in Mississauga is currently at $14.32. Does that sound like a reasonable amount, or should it be more? I'm not an economist, so I'm asking out loud.

One of the four goal areas of the steering committee is alternative service delivery. I asked for an explanation as to what that means and what alternatives have been proposed?

Ms. Noronha indicated that this refers to service agreements that allow Mississauga to identify organizations that are dedicating significant resources to outreach and unique programs while meeting certain criteria.

I think this speaks to a wider issue of how art is consumed by the public in the near future. Traditionally, it was all about going to galleries to see an artist's featured work, or going to some event featuring a cultural performances of some kind. But with the proliferation of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, artists have a wider medium to present their work.

I've seen numerous independent artists use social media to post their paintings or drawings online instead of relying on some expensive and costly exhibition (or in some cases use social media to promote such a show), and it attracts people that usually don't take in art, but came out to see them because they're avid social media users. If that can be considered a method of alternative service delivery, I think that has been successful.

It will be interesting to see what develops from this steering committee and if anything that they come up can be considered truly unique ideas that are not rehashes of previously unsuccessful ways to promote arts and culture in Mississauga.

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