We need a cultural voucher program

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

Photo Credit: Zoe Archambault

One thing that young people today are not engaging with are the artistic and cultural institutions, myself included. Live theatre, art galleries, museums and so on have all been and continue to be, dominated by wealthy, well educated and older people, but why is this the case?

For me, one thing that serves as a major barrier is the cost. When deciding how I want to spend my money, I’m much more inclined to do something I know that I like, like going to see another movie remake or sequel, or bowling with friends, than I am to go see a play or visit a museum, because as a student my resources are really limited.

That’s why I really like what Italy did a few years ago. They gave young people a €500 (over $700 CAD) “cultural bonus” to spend on things like museums, concerts, plays, buying books and so on.

This type of program has a two-sided benefit, as it not only helps these cultural institutions by investing in them, but it also exposes people to high art that they might have never seen or engaged with before, creating future patrons of the arts in the process. This helps to bring much needed diversity to the cultural sector by making it more accessible to everyday people.

This type of an arts and culture voucher program helps to take the boot off the neck of two of societies most struggling groups of people: youth and the cultural sector.

A cultural voucher program would provide an opportunity for struggling students and hard working young people to appreciate our cultural institutions and high art, while also providing an opportunity for us to engage in intellectually stimulating leisure activities.

By making arts patrons out of young people, this in turn brings people through the doors of our various cultural institutions, which have been lacking in attendance and funding in recent years. Young people have been cut off from the high arts both culturally and financially, so by removing the barriers to entry this can help reinvigorate interest in them, furthering Canadian arts and culture for generations to come.

Obviously, my plan isn’t highly detailed, nor does it deal with many of the issues that something like this would likely face, but that really isn’t the point. If you want an example of how to implement this program successfully, look at the pilot project done in Italy.

I’m more concerned with is the merits of the idea. I think that it would be worthwhile for governments to invest in the arts in this way going forward. If we want to see Canadian arts and culture flourish, then making an investment to increase attendance and engagement seems like the best way to do that. Why continue to throw money at these institutions without incentivizing people to actually go and enjoy them?

With a program like this, we could ensure that the next generation is well rounded and make the arts less elitist, while supporting Canadian culture in the process, all of which are worthwhile.

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