[Brief to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences] *
CALGARY ALLIED ARTS CENTRE
The Coste House
Calgary --- Alberta
September 15, 1949
- Alberta Society of Artists
- Calgary Artists Society
- Calgary Branch Federation of Canadian Artists
- Women's Musical Club
- Calgary Branch, Alberta Music Teachers
- Calgary Musical Festival Association
- Associated Music Teachers
- Workshop 14
- Calgary Civic Theatre
- Calgary Branch Canadian Handicraft Guild
- Calgary Ceramics Guild
- Calgary Film Society
- Calgary Model Trainmen's Society
- Calgary Magic Circle
- American Women's Club
- University Women's Club
- Beta Sigma Phi
- Alpha Iota Sorority
- Business and Professional Women's Club
- Quota Club
- Opti-Mrs Club
- Women's Canadian Club
- Col. Russell Boyle Chapter, I.O.D.E.
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THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
IN THE ARTS, LETTERS ANS SCIENCES.
Gentlemen and Madam:
The Calgary Allied Arts Council seeks to submit seven copies of a brief for later presentation, with the consent of the Commission, at the hearings to be held in Calgary City Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 1st and 2nd, 1949.
The Brief represents the considered opinion of the Executive body of the Calgary Allied Arts Council representing twenty-four cultural, recreational and community organizations.
Assuming that Commission members may want to explore arguments and conclusions within the brief, the Council has appointed the undersigned to be present at the hearings and submit themselves to verbal examination on behalf of the Allied Arts Council and its affiliated societies.
A. F. Key,
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STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND ALLIED ARTS OBJECTIVES
The Allied Arts Council believes that the cultural renaissance in Canada can and must be accomplished from the grass roots. Individuals and organizations feeling the need for cultural expression should be encouraged to rely largely on their own enthusiasm and faith. Once they have proven themselves, or proven the need - certain assistance should be forthcoming to enable them to become permanently established, but should be continued only so long as the initial purposes are being carried out and never to the point where it becomes taken for granted that such assistance is theirs by right.
We likewise believe that while there is considerable stirring and desire for cultural expression in Canada and particularly in the more isolated areas, the development of mass productive methods in the fields of cultural entertainment has tended to discourage individual initiative. Furthermore, in many instances there is a deplorable lack of direction resulting in abortive and ill-considered attempts to produce in the name of cultural effort, art forms which are decadent and derivative.
We feel that, while the Dominion Government, with its extensive resources, can make a significant contribution to the cultural life of its citizens through financial assistance and the establishment of cultural services, citizens and organizations seeking such aid should recognize their responsibility and be willing to co-operate with the government in any project which comes within the scope of their endeavors.
Government financing of any project should be used to augment, rather than as a substitute for existing methods of financing. If and when Scholarships and Fellowships are awarded, such awards should carry with them an obligation on the part of the recipient to assist in extending the cultural boundaries of Canada.
The Calgary Allied Arts Council, which, a little more than three years ago was launched on faith and a prayer, is seeking to make its own significant contribution to the cultural life of Western Canada insofar as it appears to be the only organization in the west - and possibly in Canada - which has a five-fold objective as under: -
- To bring together under one roof all the individuals and organizations in the field of creative and interpretive arts and crafts to the end that they will get to understand the philosophies and problems of each other.
- To give encouragement to the creative artist and seek to provide the necessary impetus to enable him to produce works which are expressive of the way of life of Canadians and yet are universal in character.
- To develop a discriminating audience for the creative and interpretive artist.
- To link together more closely, cultural bodies with community and recreational organizations for a better understanding and a tolerant acceptance of each other's viewpoint.
- To provide the opportunity for the development of hobbies as an avocation.
Not to boast of its achievements, but to stress the element of chance which went into the launching of Calgary's Allied Arts Centre, it is pointed out that the premises known as The Coste House, had been utilized as an art school by the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art during the war years. Permission had been granted to the Calgary Art Association to hang a limited number of exhibitions at this time. When the premises
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were vacated in May 1946, individual members of the Civic Centre Committee opened negotiations with the city for rental of the house, six persons eventually obligating themselves to pay $100 per month rent, plus all utilities and provide caretaker service. Only after the lease was signed with the city, did this committee approach organizations to affiliate and establish The Coste House as an Arts Centre.
The organizers moved into an empty house with no money or membership on June 7, 1946. An initial $300 was raised by auctioning a number of paintings donated by local artists; furniture was obtained on loan from the Brewing industry, the army, churches and private individuals; appeals for memberships were immediately made and by September 12th, the official opening day, The Coste House had taken on the appearance of an art gallery.
Starting with nine affiliated organizations, an initial membership of around 400 people, and a budget of $5,000, in three years the Allied Arts Council now has 24 affiliated groups, 60 donors, over 1,250 members and a completed budget (1948-49) of $17,000.
At first the Centre was limited to cultural groups only, later the constitution being expanded to admit both recreational and community organizations on the assumption that such hobbies as model railroading could be related to some of the arts and crafts, while community organizations, through affiliation, would get a closer understanding of the creative and interpretive arts.
Members of the Allied Arts Council are willing to have this Centre serve as an experimental station if it is so desired. Already the C.B.C. has made a radio documentary for its "Here's An Idea" series which has been used by several communities as a pattern.
The Calgary Allied Arts Council would like to feel a sense of security and permanency for the Centre as such. This is possible only if endowment funds can be established or its work can be viewed as one requiring municipal or government assistance. At the moment the Allied Arts Centre has established itself and is accepted by the citizens of Calgary. It is now voted $3,500 annually by city council and receives a token grant of $500 annually from the Province of Alberta through its Cultural Relations branch. A recession however within the next few years might force the Centre to close its doors. Some assurance of financial assistance at such a juncture would be heartening. Unfortunately, in times of retrenchment, grants earmarked for what taxpayers consider luxury expenditures, tend to be curtailed. Similarly, private donations decline. It is therefore felt that any appropriations for cultural services approved by the Dominion Government for art centres, museums, etc., should take into consideration contingencies such as are here stated providing that municipalities and/or provincial governments continue to make token grants. Such assistance would: -
- keep employed such people who normally are engaged in work at art centres and similar cultural centres.
- provide cultural and recreational facilities for people who are unemployed and who could not otherwise afford such activities.
- pave the way for continuous, rather than spasmodic, development of Canadian culture.
- serve as morale building institutions.
It is felt that if the services of such institutions as National Gallery, National Museum, etc., were extended, that art centres already established across the Dominion would be the logical institutions to approach for co-operation and, if such services demanded more staff and facilities to handle the Dominion demands, monetary assistance would be forthcoming.
While agreeing in principle with the proposal of the Federation of Canadian Artists concerning appointment of regional directors for the Visual Arts, it is suggested that, in the more sparsely populated regions and including Western Canada, such Directors could combine duties and serve not only the visual arts but music, drama, literature and the crafts. In other words, the office of this Director would serve as liason [sic] between all cultural organizations within his particular region and the National Advisory Commission or Cultural Relations Board, in order to effect a proper balance between and within the arts.
Undoubtedly, Dominion assistance for the establishment of Civic Centres has been proposed to the Commission in its journey across Canada. A Civic Centre as such, without a cultural and community program, can quickly develop into a costly white elephant. However, we believe that sympathetic consideration should be given to such pleas provided that a far-sighted program embracing cultural, sports and community activities can be presented to justify the construction of such centres.
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Development of symphonic, choral and dramatic societies in Calgary has been seriously retarded due to the lack of Civic Centre facilities while community and civic organizations frequently are unable to plan activities for more than a few weeks or months due to the temporary nature of their meeting places and offices.
In this phase of the Commission's enquiries, it is suggested that consideration be given to the establishment of an Advisory body of architects to prepare designs and plans, not only for Civic Centres but for the smaller Community Centres which should be a part of the recreational life of outlying suburbs and likewise for the rural communities. In this latter respect, much valuable groundwork has been done by the Department of Extension, University of Alberta.
THE FOLLOWING PROPOSALS ARE MADE ON BEHALF OF MANY OF OUR AFFILIATED SOCIETIES: --
MUSIC: The development and encouragement of Regional Symphonic and Choral groups deserves attention insofar as at the moment only a few Canadian orchestras and the occasional choral society is heard over Canada's radio networks.
Assistance for talented young Canadian musicians and singers to tour both the larger centres and the rural areas, and the further encouragement, through the C.B.C., for unknowns to obtain auditions.
Encouragement and assistance for composers and interpretive artists in the form of Fellowships and Scholarships.
In Calgary, the Calgary Women's Musical Club has followed a policy of offering small scholarships annually.
DRAMA: Underwriting tours of outstanding amateur dramatic groups - instance - the prize-winners at the Dominion Drama Festivals. Consideration of drama in relation to the rural areas - simplified dramatic forms adaptable for country schoolhouse or village hall.
Encouragement through subsidy of experimental theatre.
Scholarships and Fellowships for playwriters, actors, directors and dramatic teachers.
Calgary's Workshop 14, a small dramatic group, has awarded small scholarships ($200) to several of their more talented members to enable them to continue their studies in dramatic art. Such awards have been made on condition that the winners would return to Canada and impart their knowledge to others.
VISUAL ARTS: Extending the facilities of the National Gallery to enable more outstanding paintings in its permanent collection to tour the Dominion and making possible the importation of outstanding British, American and Continental European collections for circulation across Canada.
Simplifying the method of entry of exhibitions from the U.S. and abroad by relaxing Customs regulations.
A Visual Arts program which will underwrite certain artists for the painting of the Canadian scene much as Canadian war artists were employed. Mural projects for Canada's public buildings.
Fellowships and Scholarships for promising artists and art students.
LITERATURE: A more systematic collection of regional and historical data with provision for easy access to the material for writers.
Fellowships and Scholarships which could be given on occasion as an advance on royalties to enable writers to continue research and creative effort.
THE CRAFTS: Here, particularly among New Canadians, very little co-ordinated effort is being made to preserve and adapt native crafts into our Canadian cultural life. Certain areas, notably Quebec, are encouraging native crafts but frequently in other parts of the Dominion, these skills are being lost because of lack of organized effort or intelligent direction.
Indian crafts are being rapidly replaced by a saccharine brand of imitative work due to the diligent but totally misguided attitude of very worthy workers in this field of endeavour.
We feel that an extension of the National Museum services might profitably be employed to revise such crafts.
A. Calhoun, - President.
A. F. Key, - Director.
*From: Calgary Allied Arts Council. [Brief to the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences]. [Calgary, AB : The Council, 1949]. 4 leaves. By permission of the Privy Council Office.