Creativity and Culture are alive and well

This week I attended a salon (themed conversation plus dinner) on Canada’s creative future. It was sparked in part by a Globe op-ed from last year: Canada must refuel for cultural creativity. It was a great conversation with a room of brilliant and inspiring people, but I was a little surprised to find myself arguing that things aren’t so bad. (I’m used to being the negative one.)

Of course, there are a range of perspectives on the importance of culture and creativity. I won’t suggest that it’s always the case, and I won’t pretend that this isn’t overly simplistic, but it appears that there’s a significant generational gap on the issue. There are comparatively few young people at the opera, but isn’t not because we’re philistines. Mostly, we can’t afford to go to the opera. There are far more satisfying ways for us to engage culturally. 

At the salon, we were specifically asked ‘how do we get the culture people and the technology people to work together?’ In my world, this is happening constantly — to the point that it’s hard to tell the “culture people” and the “technology people” apart. There are lots of initiatives which help create these connections, directly or indirectly. Their inspiring work is why, in my opinion, the arts & culture sector is very strong. Most of these are in comparatively early stages, but at the very least they demonstrate a willingness to experiment and collaborate:

This is just a tiny slice of what’s going on, just in Toronto. The folks that are leading these initiatives have very strong links with their peers internationally, so that we can benefit from the best of what’s going on in New York, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, London, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and other cities where these culture-technology connections are being made. The outputs don’t look much like opera or ballet, but this is the form of culture and creation that’s happening today, and it’s mind-blowingly cool and enormously empowering.

This isn’t to say, of course, that culture shouldn’t be a higher priority, especially for the Federal government. And of course we all admire the way Canada celebrated itself and its culture in the two decades following the Massey Report. But we’re pragmatic: young people have no power to change anything, the old people in power are too arrogant or ignorant to listen to our perspectives, and so we invent our own contexts for “cultural creativity.”


I’m reminded of a recent post by Sheila Heti, about the kind of support young creators depend on:

Lately I’m also inspired by some of the organizing that’s going on for the BC election, on the important issues facing young people:

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