This morning, I met with Jeffrey Melanson, Mayor Rob Ford’s special advisor on the arts. We were introduced through the wonderful Will Huffman, at the Toronto Art Council.
Jeff Melanson. Image: 123nonstop.com
Though we had originally planned an interview, he asked to wait to answer my questions and instead suggested that we meet for coffee. The first thing you notice about Melanson is that he’s extremely tall and friendly, but he’s also clear and quite convincing.
Melanson outlined his plans and challenges (big challenges) for arts and culture in Toronto, and while I’m not allowed to say what we talked about – yet – suffice to say that the visual arts community can be sure that he is working on our behalf. He seems to have a fairly strong vision.
Bear in mind the huge amount of bureaucracy that he is up against, not to mention pressures from all sorts of interests.
As he pointed out, the city is polarized and I think that it’s important for all of us to keep an open mind when it comes to Rob Ford’s administration. I’m not pro-Ford, and I didn’t vote for him (nor did Melanson, in fact) but that doesn’t mean that he’s not open to Melanson’s plans for arts and culture.
Having spoken with him, I’m confident that he’s focusing on the right areas, and that he’ll be good for the arts.
I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I’ll be able to post the originally planned interview.
For now, HERE are Martin Knelman’s thoughts in the Toronto Star from a few weeks ago. Here’s hoping we move forward, not back.