Do We Value the Arts?

An Immediate Crisis

Frankly, the matter of appreciating arts and culture was not what I had in mind for October, the month I’ve always considered the beginning of a fresh programming season.  But recent news about the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Board cancelling its full 2023-24 season and the orchestra going into bankruptcy has been laying heavily on me for ten days now.  That crisis is a consequential issue that should concern everyone, not just those of us whose primary love may be for quality music.

Southwestern Ontario has had its share of arts challenges, trials really.  Remember 2014-15 when London’s orchestra similarly faced insolvency and then regrouped in a new structure?  But the current case takes place in K-W where the musicians formed this province’s third-largest orchestra and where their home base, the magnificent Centre in the Square, is, for my ears and eyes, one of Canada’s finest auditoria for music. Most recently, the entire Symphony Board has resigned.  What a disaster for that community, for all of us who travel there for great music!

I’m not ready to point fingers.  I personally know – and admire – the woman who had volunteered to be the Board Chair and if there is anyone in this entire country who knows how to raise money successfully and to use donors’ funds wisely, believe me it is she.  But what can one do when the subscriber list drops by two-thirds at the end of the Covid period!  Myself, I can only imagine the burden this Chair and her colleague volunteer Directors are feeling with the process they have faced and the decisions they have had to make!

Across arts disciplines there are scores of organizations struggling with soft audience figures, carrying debt and staggering over insufficient budgets.  The answer is not to look to governments to be bail-out rescuers; the money that’s needed is simply not in federal, provincial or municipal treasuries or arts councils, and it won’t be coming.  What to do?

The Personal Question

It does come down to my original question, though I’d like to express it in a more personal way for each of us individually to think about:  Do I Value the Arts?

The Environment We Live In

Quite recently I’ve reconnected with a colleague of twenty years past; David Maggs is a proud Newfoundlander, a dynamic pianist/producer, and a profound arts scholar.  As the inaugural Metcalfe Foundation Fellow on Arts & Society, David is focused on disruption, transformation and sustainability in the cultural sector – and aren’t those the very questions that have unsettled KW at this moment!   In the future, I hope I can return to David’s ideas and activities but, for now, let me suggest that it’s worth your time to read at least the Executive Summary to Art and the World After This, his recent Report to the Foundation.   Click on this link for some realistic, startling and vexing perspectives we should all be thinking about right now

But What Can One Person Do?

Let’s close with a clear and practical way in which individuals can play a positive role, in our case by helping Huron Waves.  Our organization has reached the end of its 2022-23 operating year, which also marks the resignations of three directors who have served faithfully through the COVID challenges and the last two live seasons of programming.  So, it’s time for Huron Waves to welcome new community members who would consider offering their energy and insights, their professional and personal experiences, and their resources and contacts, all of which could be of benefit to the organization.

We’re not looking for music specialists or programming masters, rather for individuals who feel committed to music and to its value and presence in Huron County and Southwestern Ontario.

A link to the summary of the open search is below; if you think you could be a member of the Huron Waves Board of Directors, then please do consider being in touch with us.  Our Festival needs committed, volunteer Directors to keep its Waves flowing.

Volunteer Board Director Recruitment

The Board of Directors is the senior, legal entity responsible for the operations of the Festival.  Huron Waves Festival is seeking new volunteers interested in filling future Board of Directors vacancies starting in January 2024 when appointments will be approved at the Annual General Meeting.

Ideal candidates are well-connected community or business leaders, with prior non-profit and/or charitable board experience, who are passionate about arts and culture and can leverage their professional skills and resources to impact positively the work of the Festival.

Interested candidates are requested to submit a letter of interest and resumé by November 30 to General Manager Carolyn Young at  Candidates invited for a follow-up interview with the Board president will be contacted no later than December 15, 2023.

And that’s how we begin a new season of newsletters and eventually concerts and exhibitions …with challenges around us and with one possible way to contribute individually to our own organization.

Till we’re together again…remember that Music Connects Us.

John A. Miller, Artistic Director       October 1, 2023