Aieeeee!

stewart lemoine

In Edmonton these days Stewart Lemoine and the other members of Teatro la Quindicina have a lot of reason to yell, “Aieeeee!” A few weeks ago, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts announced that it had increased its prize money for its annual awards for literature and performing arts. On September 6th, in Calgary, in a celebration of Alberta Arts Day, it was announced that Lemoine had won the $50,000 Tommy Banks Performing Arts Award. Aieeeee! indeed. I can think of no Albertan more deserving!

The Tommy Banks Performing Arts Award honours Tommy Banks’ contribution to the performing arts in Alberta. Banks lives in Edmonton and is a pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, television personality and Senator. He hosted the CBC television Variety Show The Tommy Banks Show from 1968 until 1983. In 1991 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1993 he was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence. The Tommy Banks Performing Arts Award recognizes excellence within Alberta’s performing arts community. It is based on the belief that performing arts are integral to the quality of life of all Albertans.

If you require a summary of Stewart Lemoine’s many accomplishments, you haven’t been paying attention.

As pleased and proud as punch as I am of this recognition for Stewart Lemoine, his wonderful theatre company and his amazing plays, I am struck by several other things in this news story. First of all, while Stephen Harper’s conservatives have made funding cuts of a staggering, mind-blowing, what-the-fuck (excuse my language), 48.5 million dollars for arts and culture programs in Canada, somehow, Alberta trucks along as a glimmer of hope, and increases its support for artists in its community. My question is twofold. Firstly, how is it that Alberta is able to manage its provincial priorities while including arts and culture funding? Secondly, why does it seem like Alberta is the only province to do so? Is it really as simple as: Alberta is the “rich province”?

Because that excuse does not quench my thirst for answers.

September 6th is Alberta Arts Day. Is there an Ontario Arts Day? I’m positively sure there is absolutely no Nova Scotia Arts Day. Nova Scotia does not even have an equivalent of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Nova Scotia doesn’t even have an Arts Council. The Arts Council silently disappeared several years ago and now Nova Scotian Arts funding is lumped in awkwardly with Culture, Tourism and Heritage.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? And who is demanding better in Nova Scotia? What about in the other eight provinces?

I keep coming to the same conclusion. Alberta, with an emphasis on Edmonton, is leading this country in its artistic and theatrical endeavors, and the rest of the country seem to have no idea.

Who is daring to dream of Arts Day and $50,000 awards given based on “the belief that performing arts are integral to the quality of life of all [Canadians]” Who beyond Alberta believes that? Not our federal government obviously.

Which leaves me with just one more question:

What are the rest of us going to do about it?

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