This past weekend has seen the beginning of a new tradition – the National Forum on the Power of the Arts.
The National Forum — held at Carleton University in Ottawa — was created by the Michaelle Jean foundation. The charity, formed by former Canadian Governor General, Michaelle Jean, focuses specifcally on community involvement and encouraging the arts as a form of social change in young people.
In line with the foundations mission statement, the conference was titled “Advancing Social Change”. The three day forum, lasting from Sept. 27th to the 29th hosted a slew of lectures, oppurtunites for discussion as well as a time for testimonials.
A few of the key issues addressed by the conference were youth crime rates, mental health, unemployment as well as social exclusion. The forum did not just act as a sounding board at which to bring up issues with society, but also to resolve them. All of these highly important topics can potentially be fixed or improved through thoughtful implementation of art and artistic programs.
“It is possible to advance social change person by person, citizen by citizen,” said Jean-Daniel Lafond, Canadian filmmaker and husband of Jean. “The Arts are in fact essential to our well-being”.
All too often, when politicians are involved, sweeping policy is examined and discussions are had, but nothing is ever truly accomplished on the practical ground level. This is not true of this forum however, which brings together a range of 300 individuals with unique contexts to discuss the individual actions that need to be taken in their specific communities.
As of late, many questions have been drawn in regards to the place and purpose of the Arts in Canadian society. Especially in such a world where general English and Art degrees mean very little in the means of finding post-university employment. The forum continues this debate, spreading that the Arts are more than just about a salary earned, but instead it helps individuals develop both cultural roots and individual identities.
“Music has the ability to become a passport for any individual”, Canadian musician and activist, Lynda Thalie said. “Art connects. Art bridges. Art builds communities. There is no stage too big or small… having a mic has changed my life.”
The core importance of the Forum however, is to truly develop a concrete plan to incorporate more meaningfully into the Canadian identity. The common goal for both experts conducting research as well as practitioners of the Arts is to have completed an agenda for a bonafide, national plan and agenda that competently secures Canada’s future.
Social change does not have to be an oblique intervention or poignant change in policy. Social change can be as easily accomplished as promoting self-knowledge and positive messages through the powerful vehicles of film, literature and art.
If the importance of Canadian culture and the Arts is entrenched in the minds of every citizen, we will likely see a modern, Canadian Renaissance. A re-birth centered on artistic compassion as well as individual completeness.