Cultural Policy – When Australia Leads the Way

By Krzysztof SzkurlatowskiArtExpert partner and guest blogger Pierre-François Sempéré is a political analyst, and is a graduate of Sciences Po Aix’s political science program and of HEC Montréal’s cultural management program.


Questioning identity is fundamental to understanding cultural policy in the 21st century. From Montreal to Sydney, via Paris, we are faced with the question of what culture can do in an increasingly globalized world. The instantaneous and open sharing of ideas takes precedence over closed borders and long-term thinking. However, the question of belonging has never been as important as it is today. Currently, a popular notion is that of co-existence. When faced with the cult of material progress that defines today’s world, defining a cultural policy around what makes sense, and what brings us together, means charting unknown territory.


Globalisation; by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

Identity and Democratization

The question of identity must be considered through the lens of cultural democratization. The two are intimately tied together. The slow elaboration of a sense of belonging cannot be accomplished fully unless culture is equally shared. These ideas aren’t novel – they constitute two of the three pillars of Quebec’s 1992 Cultural Policy. But the world has certainly changed since 1992.

If policy must extract itself from today’s context in order to better predict what is to come, it must still deal with reality. This means understanding that Quebec’s demographics have evolved into a pluralist society (11% of the population are considered visible minorities), and recognizing that these constituents are not fully participating in cultural life (particularly in traditional artistic disciplines).

How can we build a strong “cultural dialogue”, as mentioned in the 1992 policy, if artistic and cultural mediation does not allow us to bring together diverse populations?

photo Ryan McGuire




Cultural participation of minorities; photo Ryan McGuire


In “Enquête sur les pratiques culturelles au Québec”, Rosaire Garon proposes a few hypotheses to explain this failure: Are cultural programming in the mother tongues of these communities lacking? Do the content and form of expression go against the value systems of these groups? Perhaps both. However, these questions are intrinsic to a larger reflection on Quebec’s intercultural model. Indeed, developing a cultural policy that offers cultural programming in different languages does not resolve the issue of the lack of real cultural exchange and dialogue. This would only accentuate the passive cultural coexistence of different communities. In other words, to think that theatre is a western artform is not only wrong – forgetting luminaries such as Kateb Yacine, Sony Labou Tansi, Yukio Mishima, and others – but it also means forgetting that culture is universal, and the themes that are brought up transcend borders and reflect the hopes and dreams of all mankind.

Moreover, dealing with reality implies recognizing that the marginalized cultures of First Nations peoples are a fundamental pillar of Quebec’s culture. How can we include First Nations cultural practices? How can we reconcile the preservation of identity with interculturalism?

A lens to look at what is done in Australia

Karen Horton Australia Postage Stamp- Aboriginal Art c. 1948Conforming to a sponsor model borrowed from England, Australia long considered culture to be the purview of the State. In essence, culture remained safely away from the three governmental pillars – the federal, territorial and departmental levels of state. Slowly, Australia turned to a hybrid model, as the recognition of Aboriginal culture as a foundational element of Australian culture gradually grew. This was further expanded as Australian demographics also changed. As Jack Collins remarks in “The changing face of Australian migration”, there are more migrants from India and China today than from the United Kingdom. These two trends naturally brought the Australian authorities to consider questions of national identity through a cultural lens.


Karen Horton Australia Postage Stamp- Aboriginal Art c. 1948

In the foreword to “Creative Australia”, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard declares: “Creative Australia (…) affirms the centrality of the arts to our national identity, social cohesion, and economic success”. From this declaration flows the rest of Australia’s policy which solemnly establishes the “recognition, respect and celebration” of Aboriginal cultures as a priority and central element of Australian identity. The second priority established is to support the diversity of the Australian people: : “all citizens (…) have a right to shape our cultural identity and its expression”. Not only does Australia define itself through Aboriginal culture, but also through the diversity of the cultures that it welcomes through immigration.

This is the ideal of cultural democracy – the affirmation of equality and equity of all cultures. Even if this ideal is but partially achieved in reality, the will to succeed is certainly there. Concretely, this policy will support Aboriginal arts and culture through increased financing of programs to develop visual arts and to protect Aboriginal languages, as well as through artistic education beginning in elementary school. In essence, this is cultural programming oriented not only through offers, but to demand.

A transversal vision: Education/Culture

Artistic and cultural education is the most appropriate response to the question of identity and democratization. How can we fight against the loss of meaning if not by engaging individuals in arts and culture and by investing collectively in society? Through arts and culture education, a system of common values and understanding are forged. This means creating a transversal vision of Education/Culture. For this to happen, everyone must participate. In Australia’s Curriculum, the mandatory education of Aboriginal Arts is present through the end of High School. Just as all innovation is the product of pre-existing innovation, renewal cannot happen without being inspired by the ideas of our neighbours.

Surely, Quebec, and Canada as a whole, can learn from the Australian model.

Thanks to Natalie Kaiser for her inspiring contribution on this article.

Dollars Love Culture

Philanthropy has always been a social occupation; the spirit that guides it is a universal truth. The advantages of philanthropy are many: first off, it allows people to help others in need, and gives the philanthropist satisfaction in knowing that they are giving to a cause (or causes) that they hold dear.

Private-sector fundraising is a priority for cultural organizations and charities alike. Indeed, in an economic context in which other sources of funding are constantly shifting and evolving, private-sector giving is a more urgent need than ever before.

In Canadians value companies that support the arts, more than 80% of corporations and the public believe that engagement with the arts leads to good health and well-being, increases creativity and assists in the intellectual development of children. Arts build healthier and integrated communities; they develop empathy and understanding; and help reduce youth crime and alienation.


New paradigms in fundraising

What will become of philanthropists in the coming years? In The Evolution of Giving, from charity to philanthropy, the authors note that “boomers, the generation who have always been socially aware and involved, and who have always rejected or redefined traditional values, are taking a closer look at their charitable involvement. They’re examining why they give, what they give, to whom they give, when they give and how they give – both through financial donation, and through volunteering.”

Certain causes are more popular than others. In Trends in philanthropy (in French only), we learn that different generations give differently: Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995) contributes to 2.3 different organizations on average, and participate in “challenge”-type activities (trecking, hikes, etc), and are attuned to international issues. Generation X (born after 1965) are most interested in leisure and sports, and tend to support local initiatives. Boomers, on the other hand, donate an average of $299 in Quebec and $564 in Canada. People born before 1945 give an average of $405, contribute to an average of 3.8 organizations, favour religious organizations, and volunteer their time locally.

Corporations, who are approached more and more for donations, are looking to define their area of involvement and to ensure positive repercussions for their brand. In the research paper Canadians Appreciate Companies that Support the Arts, the authors note that only 13% of corporate donations from businesses worth more than $25M were given to the arts, compared to the 25% given by small and medium-sizes businesses (SMBs). In addition, more than one in three SMBs (38%) donate to the arts, compared to 71% of larger corporations. Since 2008, the average corporate donation has increased to $69 000 in 2014. 57% of the total contributions are sponsorships, 30% in-kind goods and services and 13% in donations.

The lever effect of the collaborative economy in culture


Diagnostic de la dynamique culturelle de l’arrondissement du Plateau-Mont-Royal, by ArtExpert, 2014

We now know that the Québécois economy is stimulated by culture, which employs more than 150 000 workers and generates over 5 billion dollars, or 5% of the province’s GDP.

The distinguishing feature of the cultural economy is its collaborative nature. For example, ArtExpert’s Cultural Diagnostic revealed that in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough in Montreal, a veritable collaborative economy flourishes, with 60% of creative, production or broadcasting partnerships built between cultural or community organizations.

Contributing to the cultural sector in a variety of ways reinforces the idea that “United we stand”. The collaborative economy is the sharing economy: ideas, resources, knowledge, office space, production space, or even a car! In her study Zoom sur l’économie collaborative Charline Legrand notes that « More philosophically, we observe a willingness to bring back meaning to what we do. This quest for meaning, common in Generation Y, is evident in the importance on human interaction and relationships (…) The high degree of interest in the collaborative economy could really not have taken place without the increase in public awareness of ecological issues that has characterized the last two decades”.

Culture, an economic and social issue for Generation Ydollars_culturels

In major urban centres and in rural areas, we see a proliferation of youth involved in economic, social, or cultural projects in their community.

In Montreal, a new movement is beginning to take hold, thanks to the new generation of business leaders investing in cultural organizations. Sébastien Barangé, co-founder of Jeunes mécènes pour les arts, wrote last year in La Presse that «Jeunes mécènes pour les arts will give out $20 000 in grants to emerging artists in November. What’s more, thanks to the Brigade Arts Affaires de Montréal, 100 emerging business leaders will donate a work of public art worth over $100 000 to Montrealers for the 375th anniversary of the City of Montreal”. In addition, in Culture in Montreal: numbers, trends and innovative practices KPMG-SECOR states that between 2008 and 2013, Montreal’s charitable and cultural organizations increased the proportion of private donations from 50% to 66% of their total revenues.

Outside of major urban centres, in spite of a smaller population, it is in partnership with small business owners, local philanthropists and community contributions that organizations that significantly increase the proportion of privately-raised donations on their overall revenue.

Youth from all walks of life now invest in culture thanks to crowdsourcing. A fundraising technique that calls everyone to action, crowdsourcing, or crowdfunding, “helps communities rally around a particular project by asking for small donations ($5, $10, $25, $50) to finance their project”, says Nathalie Courville of KissKissBankBank. These donors provide expertise, money, and their vast network to the organizations raising funds.

In a context in which funding sources are rapidly changing, organizations feel the need to put in place a plan to ensure their future. Although arts funders still provide support, a sophistication of fundraising methods using specific tools for specific asks is becoming the norm across Canada. Cultural philanthropy is, now more than ever, an undeniable force to sustain the artistic community throughout the country.


How Canada shines through its artists

While at Canadian Embassy in Hong-Kong, such was my surprise to discover the centerpiece of the meeting room is a work of Ione Thorkelsson, glass sculptor originally from Manitoba. My interlocutor, a Chinese, began the conversation by commenting on Ione’s work. It did not need more to make our business relationship go forward.


Ione Thorkelsson (b. 1947) “Arboreal fragments” 2004, cast glass, tree sections, brass, lighting, various dimensions, HONG-KONG

I know that culture plays a vital role in the appreciation of our identity and acts as a fundamental characteristic of our nation in the international community. At that very precious moment, art was part of Canadian diplomacy.

The role of arts and culture in Canadian public diplomacy

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy defines Cultural Diplomacy as a “course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests”.

In 1995, Canada in theWorld recognized Canadian values and culture as the ‘third pillar’ of foreign policy, equal to the first two pillars of economic growth and international peace and security. A most abrupt change was made in 2005 in the foreign policy review A Role of Pride and Influence in the World. Culture as a pillar of foreign policy was completely absent, and cultural relations were few throughout the document.

Yet, in foreign affairs, arts and culture continue to play a leading role in diplomatic strategies in most countries. We then get the opportunity to tell the world who we are and offer a positive image of our country.

“Cultural diplomacy is the use of creative expression and exchanges of ideas, information, and people to increase mutual understanding” stated Cynthia P. Schneider in Cultural Diplomacy: Hard to Define, but You’d Know It If You Saw It

Our artists stand abroad


Carved glass wall by Marianne Nicolson (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw artist, Victoria) “A Precarious State” 2013, carved glass panels, 200 x 1201 cm, AMMAN

Borderless artists and high profile organizations shine and are worldly acclaimed in many capital and great cities. In 2015 it is hard to find regions on our cultural planet where you can not soak in works by our designers or our artists. Our country is undeniably a more fertile breeding ground for the arts.

“Culture is about our image, our values and our identity” says Program Manager and Curator for Visual Art Collection at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), Dan Sharp. “DFATD acquires original art works from living, emerging-to-mid-career artists from all regions of Canada to reflect our rich and diverse cultural and linguistic heritage.”


Paintings by Janet Werner (b. 1959, Winnipeg). Left: Girl with Green Collar, 2002, oil on canvas, 208.8 x 173.2 cm; Right: Girl with Tongue Out/Sassy, 2002, oil on canvas, 208.8 x 173.2 cm, BERLIN

In 2015, there are approximately 4000 artists in the collection of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and 6200 works of art. On display abroad is 80% of the collection, in a total of 111 cities, including Embassies, Consulates and High Commission offices and Official Residences. Works of art are displayed in China, India, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, England, USA, Japan, Mexico or Brazil, as well as many others. These works are for display only in public or representational areas of chanceries or designated official residences to which they are assigned.

The country ‘s remarkable collection of artwork expresses the high level of Canada’s creativity both in the arts and in general. The artists whose works are displayed contribute to the high-level of exchanges conversation, on top of the great ideas shared between two countries.

Thanks to Dan Sharp for his inspiring work and to Rachael Maxell for her Paper The Place of Arts and Culture in Canadian Foreign Policy, Canadian Conference for the Arts, 2009