Home » VoCA Loves…Christie Blatchford

VoCA Loves…Christie Blatchford

Charles Pachter, The Painted Flag, 1981. Image: cpachter.com

Food for thought by Ms. Blatchford from a recent issue of the Globe and Mail…

“…Artists, while precious and important to the nation, are not fragile and ought not to be infantilized. They don’t need coddling and protection from government; they don’t need their work to be judged only kindly or only by their friends; they need not be constantly praised; and surely, it is not necessary that every aspect of their lives is subsidized by their countrymen.

As Charles Pachter said…let government support arts and culture for young people, “because that’s where it all starts,” and let’s otherwise encourage entrepreneurship and good business attitudes in what is “the soul of the country.”

Does art matter? You’re damn right it does, but not because Ottawa tells us so, and not because Ottawa pays the whole shot.

Art matters, period.

Read the full article HERE

And read artist Vera Frenkel’s response HERE.

26 Responses to “VoCA Loves…Christie Blatchford”

  1. Jeff says:

    Fuck Andrea, make up your mind. Are you for funding, or against it?

  2. Andrea says:

    I agree that some arts programs should be government funded, but I think that artists can rely too heavily on govt funding – and I don’t always think that’s a good thing. I think that the private sector has to be encouraged (by government) to support the arts.

  3. Equivocate is a verb with no object.

  4. Jeff says:

    You cant’ have it both ways: you express outrage when Harper makes cuts, then you profess love for Christie Blatchford for agreeing with him.

    If you want the private sector to pay more for the arts, vote for a party that will raise their taxes.

  5. mmm says:


    You often disagree with any mention of grants cuts to artists. If you were elected emperor-for-life, and had full control of the budget, what kind of grants would you implement? What other government spending programs would you cut in order increase spending for the arts?

  6. Andrea says:


    I don’t think it’s a black and white issue. Of course there are many valuable arts programs that we need to support Canadian culture. But dependency on government programs, can, in my opinion breed mediocracy. I can think of a few Canadian magazines, for instance, whose reliance on Govt grants means that they squeak by with low readership, average writing etc. and not paying their writers what they’re worth.

    I think the system needs changing.

  7. Hi mmm. Regarding:

    ” If you were elected emperor-for-life, and had full control of the budget, what kind of grants would you implement?”

    Well first of all I’d be an Empress, not an Emperor. Do they elect those?

    Thankfully, we don’t have an imperial system in Canada but a parliamentary one. And I would seriously question what a minority government is doing cutting programmes in a healthy and viable economic sector, outside of standing committee review and outside of stakeholder consultation. If this is the new protocol – I disagree with it and I would ask as Hon. Mauril Belanger already did so eloquently at the August 26 meeting of the Standing Committee of Canadian Heritage:

    “Is there an abuse of executive authority in cutting programs once they have been approved by Parliament? I think this is a very serious question. I think parliamentarians and Canadians would want a bit more insight into this. If this is the case, then the government can cancel any program without doing any evaluation whatsoever. If the programs exist, parliamentarians of all parties should have a chance to look at the evaluations. If the government can cancel any program that has been approved by Parliament through estimates or in the budget, then where does it stop?”


    “What other government spending programs would you cut in order increase spending for the arts?”

    The Canadian Taxpayers Federation took a look at the minority Conservative government’s spending and I would direct you to simpleposie for the link to this tidbit:

    “from June 2nd to September 4th, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) tracked 293 pre-election spending announcements totaling $8.8-billion made by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. That is roughly $94-million a day or about $3.9-million every hour”

    You’ll have to crack open the PDF list of spending for yourself. What spending would J@simpleposie eliminate? I’ll give you a hint. The list starts with Bombardier.

  8. Jeff says:

    I am not suggesting that the issue is black and white. But this blog comes across like a Jerry Springer audience member, easily swayed by any impassioned arguement. Had you only said “food for thought” I could have let it go. But you titled the column “VOCA Loves Christie Blatchford”.

    Don’t think for a minute that Christie Blatchford cares about any of the contemporary art that appears on this site. She is a vile and hateful (not to mention overtly racist) journalist and her views on the arts should not be praised here. She should be left to do what she does best: cheerleading the war-on-terror, fetishizing murdered babies, defending Conrad Black, praising Sarah Palin (“an extraordinary woman”), forgiving soldiers for stomping a homeless man to death, and obsessing over Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

  9. Alex M. says:

    She happens to own my work AND it has been been mentioned on this site. You can have all of those points of view AND love and collect contemporary art. Just saying.

  10. Sze li says:

    Hi, I like your blog. I am from Singapore and I have a design blog too at http://designbuzz88.blogspot.com/.
    Hope you visit.

  11. Looking back on it – There’s been some equiVOCAting on this issue since at VOCA since that April 16th post – floating Marni Soupcoff’s test balloon diatribe against the arts… too bad hindsight can’t be foresight. But what a harbinger!

    Months before PM Harper made his famous remarks about artists at rich galas we had Soupcoff in the Post:

    “Let’s be honest — who makes up the majority of the audiences of symphonies, art galleries and ballets? It’s middle-class and rich people who can afford to pay for their own entertainment.”


    “VoCA doesn’t necessarily agree with her article, but we think she has a point.”

  12. sally says:

    Christie Blatchford’s piece is based on a rhetorical assumption that’s just plain wrong:

    “Rather, I believe and I hope that what Mr. Harper was grappling with was the notion – pervasive in Canada – that Big Brother must be the only funder of the arts and should pick up the tab, cradle-to-grave, for artists, arts groups, art organizations, art schools and art classes, art publications, art shows, arts festivals, arts magazines, art touring and art publicity and that this is the only way for art and the arts to thrive.”

    First , who thinks gov’t should be the only funder of the arts? Anybody? Second, what artist has ever received funding “from cradle to grave” from any sector, let alone the gov’t? Third, what arts organisation exists on gov’t grants alone? Even the small arts magazines bust their humps selling ads and subscriptions and holding fundraisers in order to stay afloat and ensure that Canadian Art and Globe and Mail are not the only print forums for art discourse in Canada.

    CB goes on to say that “there ought to be a bigger role for philanthropists and corporations both,” implying that the government is doing so much arts funding that these eager philanthorpists and corporations simply can’t find any needy or deserving artists or organizations to give money to. That’s clearly cracked and reeks of the same ideology that would come up with the notion that artists are not ordinary Canadians, but instead are floating around on some kind of special creative utopic cloud-island where they don’t have to work their butts off to put food on the table like everybody else.

  13. Michael Maranda says:

    Good comment, Sally, couldn’t agree more.

    Just so we’re all clear on the situation: In 2005, the median income for a Canadian was $41,401. On the other hand, the median income for a visual artist in 2007, from all sources, was $20,600. The median net income from their artistic practice, on the other hand, was -$900 (yes, a negative amount).

  14. Andrea says:

    Those are very interesting statistics, Michael. But where does the ‘market’ come into it? I mean artists whose work is in demand make more money and artists whose work isn’t, make less…no?

  15. sally says:

    Being “in demand” can mean a lot things. Take the example of a hard working artist like Janet Cardiff. She and George Bures Miller produce large scale ambitious art works that people love and discuss and flock to see in major galleries and museums around the world. But no matter how good the work, achieving that kind of profile is simply not possible on the basis of the market alone. Even if the artists themselves never received a personal grant to produce work (which is unlikely in the case of such successful professionals) the galleries and museums that show and promote their work, the curators who move it forward, the writers who review it, the shipping fees, travel, etc. are all going to be in some ways at some times supported by government. Do our major high profile art institutions get money from the government? You betcha.

    This isn’t unique to the art world. The government puts money into any business sector. For some reason it’s only the artists who are characterizes as getting “hand outs,” while small businesses are getting “seed money,” or “startup grants” and big corporations are getting support for “research and development.” In short, the “market” and government are intertwined in any economy. This relationship ought to be particularly visible right now, considering that the US republican government has just dumped a wack of money into Wall Street.

    I think the reason arts funding is repeatedly singled out for attack comes from a combination of belief systems. Some people believe fervently in the free market on principle and do not acknowledge that government regulation is necessarily part and parcel of Western democracy. Some people also fervently believe in the myth of the genius artist. When these belief systems combine, the workaday reality of art production comes as a threat to both ideologies. In a funny way, Harper’s vision of the decadent artists at the fancy galas demonstrates an investment in the myth of the artist — a special genius spontaneously popping out works that show great talent. In the freemarket-is-everything model, that genius is supposed to just rise to the top, and everyone else is some kind of faker. But in reality even the best artists need to hustle hard just to get shown, as Michael’s statistics demonstrate, and many of the best artists never get acclaim, let alone income. There are simply too many variable factors that influence success for the market to be useful as a guide for judging talent.

    I know this post is already way too long. But I’m gonna talk a little bit about the spectre Andrea raised of government-sponsored mediocrity in the arts. Two things. First, the market also breeds mediocrity. Second, if you are going to have excellent art you need abundance — a strong healthy discourse and a lot of works in dialogue — and mediocrity is just part of abundance. It’s a sign of vitality. (Never mind the fact that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold and all that.)

  16. sally says:

    plus…what Vera Frenkel said.

  17. Andrea, would you mind elaborating as to what it was that impressed you about Ms. Blatchford’s article. My reaction to it was a lot like Sally’s and more than that I thought it was poorly written and completely lacking innovation as an argument.

    I mean there were very specific arts funding cuts made by the Treasury Board prior to the election and I don’t see them mentioned let alone treated critically in the article. Blatchford’s tendency to favour the quote unquote broader question of whether or not government should support the cultural sector (with great big thanks to Seamus O’Finnigan Beginagain) obfuscates a significantly more pressing issue.

    The first of these I mentioned above. What is the protocol for axing legislated programmes? If arts programmes can be cut at the pre election whim of the Treasury Board of a minority government – without deliberation, without the transparency of parliamentary evaluation, then doesn’t that strike you as a dangerous precedent? If the arts community, (sorry to use the term you hate so much Christie if you’re reading) wakes to find it’s governmental advocacy cut by stealth, announced without aplomb and after the fact in website blurbs – will larger communities in need of a broader range of tax payed advocacies and services come to expect their parliament to covertly dismantle select programmes as well?

    That Blatchford devotes nearly 300 words of her article to how she gleaned her insider view on The Canada Council is almost as irrelevant and argumentatively shoddy as opening the essay with an attempt to spell out what the PM “meant to say”. This kind of rhetoric is thinner than kleenex.

    Anyway, I’m glad she has one of Alex M.’s works on her art cram packed walls. I’ll give her one for that and two for trying….out of ten.

    Please convince me if you think I am wrong. I would be very interested in your take.

  18. Blatchford writes:

    “That means more schmoes like me buying art; more companies such as L’Oréal supporting festivals like Luminato, and at the very least, that the whole ball of wax is occasionally held up to the light and examined.”

    If she held up the ball of wax close enough to the light she would have noticed that Loreal’s Luminato was funded through Heritage to the tune of a million dollars.

  19. Stevie Jakobsen says:

    geez, we need more people like Sally.

    in another way, a lot of what passes as objective endorsements from this blog is for the most part influenced by the art market, and i don’t mean the symbolic capital art market(as in biennials, artist run centre stuff), rather the commodity art market as in commercial art galleries.

  20. Andrea says:

    Nice comments, Sally…they are much appreciated and I see your point. I think it’s a complex issue..

    I did enjoy Christie Blatchford’s article for several reasons including:

    “Charles Pachter said…the Canadian arts world has “learned to exist on the grants system,” not always with stellar results, and there ought to be a bigger role for philanthropists and corporations both.”

  21. Andrea, how do you respond to the fact Loreal’s Luminato was funded by the Department of Heritage?

  22. Andrea says:

    I’m not aware of all the details, but I think it’s a good thing

  23. So again, keeping in mind it’s not a black and white issue,
    you’re worried about artist dependency on government programs breeding a mediocracy, but government funded corporate philanthropy sounds like a good thing?

  24. Birte Hella says:

    Food for thought, no doubt about it. But, let’s face it, imo, when it is all said and done, art is life not a separate part thereof so that when times get tough a lot art is still going made although a lot of artists will have to give up. Unfortunately.
    In an ideal world creative individuals would always be able to create without worry for money —patrons step up to the plate without hesitation for ALL arists; with full knowledge and acceptance that ART is the measure of human kind.

    Yet, even in affluent times, ‘the public’ must be willing to part with funds that could otherwise be used for good practical purposes. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; but, when it is needed to be eaten, well before it can be rendered and tossed into the ‘artcart’ then that too must be accepted.

    It is an act of great generosity for ‘the public’ to want to contribute to something outside and apart from themselves, even in the best of times. Funding for artists is a sacrificial act and and acknowledgement of ‘the importance’ the arts as an element of our society at all times.

    It should never be taken for granted and appreciated when given in good faith. If the public purse is empty, then the artist must and will look to themselves and in so doing, no doubt, generate funds toward the greater good —surviving artists being among them.

    Having said that, I do believe, ordinary people need art as much as the need food on their tables, yet one must come before the other.

  25. Birte Hella says:

    Sorry about all the ommissions and typos…in the previous post. No excuse; but, having no spell check and being a surviving and aging artist, my eyesight is going too. Again, so sorry…maybe just ‘delete’.

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