Establishing a Context for Edmonton's Cultural Inventory
As was noted in the Urban Institute Arts and Cultural Indicators Project (the model for undertaking Edmonton's cultural inventorying), it is important to review other studies about the subject city that may prove useful to the inventory process. This research is summarized in a series of Position Papers included in the appendices.
A Contextual View: Edmonton as a Cultural Capital of Canada (CCC)
At the beginning of the 21st century, the arts and culture can no longer be viewed as the preserve of privileged elites or at the margins of society. They need to be seen as an integral part of the city experienced on all levels in all environments—a part of the everyday experience of all citizens. Making this assertion a reality would go a long way to addressing the issues of participation exclusion and living mode exclusion.
Each city is at a different phase of its historical, cultural, social and economic development, and this context must be taken into account.
For its year as a Cultural Capital of Canada, Edmonton chose the guiding theme of Building Connections. As described in the bid for the 2007 designation, Edmonton "values the many diverse communities" and "takes as a priority the appreciation within these communities, and among the general public, of their contribution to the municipal whole." As Edmonton's population and diversity continue to grow, there is wisdom in centering Edmonton's year as a Cultural Capital of Canada on the theme of building connections. The overall objective for Edmonton's designation is "to better coordinate planning and realize its ongoing commitment to be a city of arts and culture."
Within the context of Edmonton's CCC designation, the City of Edmonton Cultural Inventory Project is envisioned as a tool for capturing the gamut of cultural resources in Edmonton. This is a crucial phase of any cultural planning process and, normally, the inventorying happens prior to development of the cultural plan. With respect to Edmonton, the inventory process and cultural plan development are happening in parallel. The Edmonton Arts Council is leading the Cultural Plan Steering Committee for the City of Edmonton and will release a Cultural Plan in spring 2008. The inventory is linked to the cultural planning process through the person of Adriana A. Davies, Ph.D., founding Executive Director of the Heritage Community Foundation, who is the inventory project lead and also serves as a member of the Cultural Planning Committee. John Mahon, Executive Director, Edmonton Arts Council, has oversight of the inventory process and, on a regular basis, inventory materials are reviewed by the entire Cultural Planning Committee.
Identifying cultural resources is a crucial first step that supports a range of activities including:
- Policy development and planning for the municipality
- Internal municipal infrastructure relating to the arts, culture, heritage and other aspects of the life of the community
- Resource allocation including funding to institutions, organizations and individuals
- Marketing and promotion
The inventory allows inferences to be drawn about the links that exist between these resources and highlights potential deficits in cultural resources, areas of funding need, and also the possibility of new links that lead to greater inclusion and enhanced opportunities to "experience" culture for all. The inventory is being undertaken within a changing demographic context, as Edmonton experiences an "economic boom."
According to Statistics Canada's 2006 Census, the highest population growth rate among G8 countries took place in Canada and most of this growth took place in urban areas. International migration accounted for two-thirds of this growth from 2001 to 2006. According to the 2006 Census, Edmonton is one of Canada's fastest growing cities; this is mainly due to people, many of whom are from other parts of Canada, moving here to pursue employment opportunities. For the first time, Edmonton was counted as a city with more than 1 million people.
Pressures of economic growth in Edmonton
Population growth may be a good thing and, according to Mayor Stephen Mandel, "we're still a long way from where we need to be as far as population to deal with the rapid (economic) growth we're facing". Mandel, drawing on the example of Austin, Texas, a notoriously "cool" city, said he would like to see Edmonton draw national attention not only for its lucrative economy but also for its "creativity." There are plans to recruit larger numbers of migrant workers to the city and thought must be given and planning undertaken to ensure that these people are able to enjoy a good quality of life and that Edmonton does not just come to be a place to work but, rather, a place to live and a community to be a part of.
The economic boom has created untold wealth for some but is also creating very dangerous social pressures for low-income and/or migrant populations, most notably "challenges related to safe, healthy, affordable, and appropriate housing at a proportionally more significant level than the overall population." This needs to be recognized and anticipated in the cultural planning process. It is not hard to see how it would be difficult to enjoy or be a part of a city's cultural resources when one has nowhere to live.
However, there are already a number of initiatives working to ensure culture is a "resource for an entire city." A prime example is the Edmonton-based Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations, with a truly impressive program of activities for its 14th Annual Campaign in 2007. It includes:
- Stories Between Our Fingers is an initiative to create a comic movie "regarding the trials and tribulations of immigrant youth arriving in Canada."
- The Embracing Diversity initiative, sponsored by NorQuest College, includes an art and writing contest exploring issues of racism.
- Community through Photography - All different All Equal, sponsored by the Edmonton Young Offender Centre, explores the importance of cultural diversity and will explore the cultural backgrounds of youth through artistic expression.
- The Trinity Manor in Edmonton offers housing and support services to "refugees who are survivors of pre-arrival trauma." The support services are designed to "assist with making connections in the community to counteract the loneliness felt by newcomers."
All of the above are creative ingredients of Edmonton's cultural fabric and may help to address the issue of participation exclusion and living mode exclusion. Evoking culture as an instrument of social change is often rejected but transcending this is the "cultural liberty" concept which suggests, instead, these are efforts to ensure "culture" as a human right.
The 2004 Human Development Report Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World, published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), looks at the link between "cultural liberty" and ensuring inclusive and just societies.
The concept of "cultural liberty" transcends the instrumental debate—it conceives that being free and having the opportunity to explore or experience aspects of culture, in ways that are meaningful, is a human right and a "vital part of human development." Culture here is seen as something beneficial to humanity to be experienced in of itself, not as an eventual means to, for example, reducing crime, vandalism, or increasing the tourist revenue for a given city. The report stresses the distinction of two types of cultural exclusion:
- participation exclusion where individuals or groups are denied access to culture and
- living mode exclusion which "denies recognition of a lifestyle that a group would choose to have."
At the beginning of the 21st century, the arts and culture can no longer be viewed as the preserve of privileged elites or at the margins of society. They need to be seen as an integral part of the city experienced on all levels in all environments—a part of the everyday experience of all citizens. Making this assertion a reality would go a long way to addressing the issues of participation exclusion and living mode exclusion. Robert Palmer, in a speech about "cultural cities," makes the point:
…to get cities to work creatively, we should work holistically. cultural policy and action must never be confined to a handful of arts events, however important these may be. Cultural policy must invade and interact with all forms of public policy.
The intent of this statement is an affirmation that the arts and culture are a part of the social fabric of a city. "Once culture has been recognized as absolutely necessary in any society, how can this be translated into reality?" This question, posed by a member of the European Parliament, highlights the importance of moving beyond rhetoric and philosophical ideals towards culture rooted in measurable practice. An inclusive cultural inventory should prove to be such a "measurable practice" for the City of Edmonton, as a part of the larger CCC designation and the creation of Edmonton's Cultural Plan.
Overview of Past City of Edmonton Cultural Research Projects
In the last two decades, there have been a number of important studies conducted on both the national as well as local levels that shed light on the nature of the contribution of arts and culture to the overall economic health and well being of Edmonton. In fact, it appears that it has actually become an accepted standard to justify the arts and culture in terms of economic returns.
In the past 20 years, there have been a number of research projects that attempted to assess the value of arts and culture to the City of Edmonton. Discussion Paper 2 examined a selected sampling of studies of interest to the cultural inventory, including:
- Edmonton: A City for the 21st Century Report of the Cultural Futures Project – 1988
- Consumers Spending on Culture in Canada, the Provinces and 15 Metropolitan Areas in 2005–2007
- Economic Impact of "Arts and Culture" in the Edmonton Alberta Capital Region – 1996
- Economic Impact of "Arts and Culture" in the Greater Edmonton Region – 2005
- Foundation Report: The Arts in Edmonton – 1996
- Building Creative Capital An Investment Plan for the Arts in Edmonton, Report of the Mayor's Task Force on Investment in the Arts – 1994
- Artists in Canada's Provinces, Territories and Metropolitan Areas a Statistical Analysis Based on the 2001 Census – 2004
- Relieving Symptoms in Cancer: Innovative Use of Art Therapy – 2006....
For the most part, the studies looked at exhibiting some general methodological overlaps. The methods employed by the studies can be subdivided into two main categories: those taking a qualitative approach and those taking a quantitative approach. The quantitative approach tends to be characterized by what can be termed as "soft data" collection methods, which deal with the collection of less easily quantifiable and, to a point, subjective data. This, in part, includes the use of focus groups, direct interviews, telephone and mail out surveying, as well as meta-analysis of existing literature. The quantitative approach tends to be characterized by what can be termed as "hard data" collection methods, which deal with the collection of more tangible and more easily statistically quantifiable, by and large, objective data. This approach generally focuses on the use of governmental as well as private archives and statistics banks, also mail out and telephone surveying, and at times utilizing research one in various areas of the natural sciences. All of the above research projects quite effectively employ a combination of some or all of the methodological approaches listed above.
All the available data presented, generally speaking, indicates that the arts and culture contribute substantially to the overall economic and psychological growth, health, and well-being of any host community. Where the data specifically focuses on the city of Edmonton, the findings display no significant variance from the overall picture.
Without a doubt, the most common approach to arts and culture-themed research undertaken in recent times has been to assess the level of economic impact of arts and culture on their host community's economy. However, as these studies also make clear, in general terms, as well as in terms directly applicable to the Edmonton situation, the economic impact of arts and culture is hardly the sole criterion which contributed to the findings outlined below.
According to the recently released report from the Department of Canadian Heritage, in 2005, Edmontonians spent a total of $930 million on culture and the arts. Of this, $110 million was spent on art works and events; this includes $50 million spent on live artistic performances alone.
In the last two decades, there have been a number of important studies conducted on both the national as well as the local levels that shed light on the nature of the contribution of arts and culture to the overall economic health and well-being of Edmonton. In fact, it appears that it has actually become an accepted standard to justify the arts and culture in terms of economic returns.
In actuality, this is not entirely a bad approach in its own right. As the research indicates, the arts do contribute substantially to the bottom line of any community visionary enough to champion them, Edmonton included. The research has generated some noteworthy facts. According to the recently released report from the Department of Canadian Heritage, in 2005, Edmontonians spent a total of $930 million on culture and the arts. Of this, $110 million was spent on art works and events; this includes $50 million spent on live artistic performances alone.
The report does make a distinction between spending on cultural goods and services and art works and events. In 2005, Edmontonians, on average, spent $952 per capita on cultural goods and services (earning a national ranking of fifth out of 15 metropolitan areas examined in this category) and $116 per capita on art works and events (in this category Edmonton ranked fourth). Those are staggering figures in their own right, but when one considers that, as of the most recent city census, published 1 April 2005, the population of Edmonton proper was only 712,391 inhabitants, those figures do indeed take on additional significance.
What needs also to be clearly understood is that the above figures are but an indication of levels of public patronage. Arts tend to have a much farther-reaching impact on their host community's economic well being. There are, of course, also the operational economic benefits to consider. The fact that artists are also consumers cannot be neglected—they need supplies, they need to eat, and they need work and living space, etc. The arts and culture sector employs people and stimulates employment and other growth in all sectors of the economy. According to a report from the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, in 2005, the arts and culture sector contributed $123.7 million to the Greater Edmonton's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This represents an impressive increase of $29 million in less than a decade, as a report published in 1997 by Economic Development Edmonton lists the economic impact of arts and culture to the Edmonton Capital Region's GDP to be $94.7 million for the year 1996. The true breadth of impact of these figures can be put into further perspective by pointing out that, according to a report released in part on behalf of the Canada Council for the Arts in 2004, artists represent less than one percent of Edmonton's total labour force.
Paradoxically, as beneficial as arts and culture appear to be to Edmonton's economy, in many cases, the reverse does not seem to be true. Again, according to the 2004 report, artists in Edmonton, on average, earned 40% less per annum as compared to the overall earnings average. The report states that, in 2001, the average overall labour force per annum earnings in Edmonton totaled $31,999, while the artists' per annum average earnings totaled $19,200.
Even without an in-depth analysis, it becomes apparent that the arts have been and continue to be a tremendously important contributor to, and arguably a necessary part of, the City of Edmonton's economic superstructure. It is important to note that, without the overall contribution from the arts and culture, even during a time of unprecedented economic growth, Edmonton would find itself a much poorer community.
… the arts sector … helps to retain and attract residents and businesses, draws tourism, is an engine of municipal revitalization and gives the city its identity.
Research dealing directly or indirectly with non-economic benefits of art and culture to Edmonton is comparatively sketchy. In attempting to provide policy guidelines for Edmonton's direction in relation to the long-term future of arts and culture in the city, the Cultural Futures Project of 1988 found that arts and culture are fundamentally beneficial to the proper functioning of essentially all sectors of the Edmonton community. The benefits discussed, apart from economics, included:
- evidence of increased social cohesion and
- civic pride and identity building, particularly across ethnic boundaries, in all sectors of the community exposed to and participating in arts and cultural activity.
Moreover, based on anecdotal evidence, the general psychological perception of those institutions within the city (be they educational, multicultural, recreational, religious, civic, etc.), which have a strong connection to the arts and culture sectors, was that of being healthy, well functioning, and generally evolving in an overall positive direction.
Some of the findings of the 1988 report were indeed echoed by the Mayor's Task Force report of 1994. This report found that "…the arts sector … helps to retain and attract residents and businesses, draws tourism, is an engine of municipal revitalization and gives the city its identity. The arts represent an important industry nationally, provincially and locally." Arguably, the more interesting findings of the 1994 report, as partially testified to by the above quotation, deal with the connection between artistic and cultural activity and urban identity and renewal. The importance of this, in the context of Edmonton, cannot be overstated as the city grapples with ongoing issues of growth-stimulated reinvention and inner-city decay.
Perhaps what could be viewed as a more tangible example of primarily non-economic impact of the arts on the community can be found in the realm of medicine. While the discussion that follows only peripherally relates to Edmonton, it deals with issues of importance that both warrant discussion and are, debatably, directly applicable to Edmonton, and indeed to any community.
The discipline of art therapy, as it is known today, is a creation of the 20th century. Having originated in Europe in the early 20th century, art therapy was transplanted to North America, first to the US and shortly thereafter to Canada, in the 1940s. Since then, art therapy has become an accepted form of treatment used primarily but not exclusively in the areas of psychiatry and psychology. However, the potential benefits of art therapy to other regions of medicine have become the subject of increased study. Shortly after the City of Edmonton hosted the Annual International Conference of the Society for Arts in Health Care in June 2005 (which, incidentally, was the very first time the conference was held outside of the US), a study from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago published some very intriguing findings about the use of art therapy in pain management.
This study found that a one-hour art therapy session administered to cancer patients resulted in a significant reduction in eight of nine symptoms measured by, coincidentally, the Edmonton Symptoms Assessment Scale (the scale is used to assess the level of patients' symptoms of pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, lack of appetite, general well-being and shortness of breath); the only symptom that remained unaffected after the therapy session was nausea. One of the truly significant and, to an extent, surprising findings of the study revolves around the actual physiological changes brought about by the therapy session. Apparently, the session had a significant analgesic effect on the subjects and also resulted in the reduction of physical fatigue and the actual increase of levels of energy (i.e., feelings of being physically re-energized).
The findings lend themselves to the conclusion that arts and culture contribute significantly and overall, positively, from an economic as well as non-economic perspective, to the overall health and well-being of Edmonton as well as any community.
The studies examined do provide a resource base of recommendations, aimed at community leadership structures as well as at the citizenry at large, as pertaining to the maximization of mutual benefits within the relationship between arts and culture and their host communities. While it is not practically possible to present a comprehensive examination of all the recommendations provided in the studies reviewed, some of the more notable are highlighted below.
Perhaps it is a controversial statement to make (less so today than at the time when the study was released and John Geiger of the Edmonton Journal attacked it and succeeded in casting doubts in the mind of City Council as to the study's recommendations), but it seems that the Cultural Futures Project of 1988, in many ways, was ahead of its time. For example, the project strongly recommended that the Internet and other electronic and digital modes of information dissemination and sharing be adopted to provide citizens of Edmonton and tourists alike with access to art and cultural resource information. Keeping in mind that this recommendation was made in 1988, it does exhibit a visionary quality.
Furthermore, the project went on to recommend that the future treatment of arts and culture should avoid the practice of compartmentalization. This, arguably, has since become a feature of most contemporary research dealing with the issues at hand. The idea that art and culture are not simply separate entities existing within their host community, but are actually integral interwoven elements of, and interacting with, all other elements of the host community superstructure has become more widely accepted. Repeatedly, researchers and writers ask for a holistic approach.
Another important recommendation from the project, which has stood the test of time, is the suggestion that, through encouraging participation in artistic and cultural activities among all citizens of Edmonton, the community can achieve a sense of personal and communal ownership of the artistic and cultural resources within the city. This would be a sense that entrenches the intrinsic value notion of arts and culture in Edmonton and which would become an acquired, eventually inherent value handed down generationally.
The research that primarily concerns itself with the economic benefits of arts and culture suggests that, given the obviously substantial economic benefits of arts and culture to Edmonton, sustainable resources ought to be made available to cultivate those economic benefits. The Arts in Edmonton report of 1996, for instance, suggests that one has to spend money to make money. Thus, the recommendation is that Edmonton as a community must continue to invest in arts and culture on an ongoing basis in order to continue to reap maximum returns from that industry.
In conclusion, the general consensus of the studies examined (which span two decades) appears to be that the overwhelming economic and social benefits of the arts and culture, in Edmonton, are an important resource not to be squandered and require ongoing and sustainable financial, emotional, and socio-political support.
Edmonton's Cultural Infrastructure: Facilities and Organizations
Cultural planning needs to look beyond funding regimes to help create a climate for the growth and maintenance of a range of cultural activities at both the facility and programming organization level. Non-profit and for-profit cultural providers should be in a symbiotic relationship and the City of Edmonton should facilitate this.
It is clear from the classification systems noted above that the cultural sector in Edmonton, embracing the arts and heritage subsectors, and both for-profit and non-profit organizations, is large and hitherto largely unmapped. That is both the challenge and opportunity since all current "creative" cities studies indicate that one needs to have this range of facilities and organizations working together for a culturally vital and inclusive city. Discussion Paper 3 examined the notion of cultural infrastructure defined as facilities and organizations.
As has been noted above, the model being used for the City of Edmonton Cultural Inventory includes both non-profits and for-profits. In addition, the inventory includes arts, heritage, and other cultural entities. While facilities can be easily identified because of their physical presence in the community, for example, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Winspear Centre for Music, and other performance or display venues, they are the tip of the iceberg. Organizations far outnumber facilities and they are incredibly important because they are programming bodies that address the range of arts and heritage disciplines, as well as level of proficiency from amateur to professional. Thus, the Brian Webb Dance Company has no facility but it needs rehearsal and performance spaces and these include the John L. Haar Theatre at the Grant MacEwan Jasper Place campus, the Timms Centre at the University of Alberta and the Catalyst Theatre in Old Strathcona.
A key element of a solid cultural inventory involves the creation of a comprehensive directory of facilities and organizations and this work is being undertaken by the Heritage Community Foundation as one of its deliverables for the City of Edmonton Cultural Inventory (section 6 focuses on this inventory). This kind of comprehensive inventory/directory has not been developed before and, in fact, Edmonton, like many other peer cities, is characterized by the compartmentalizing of support organizations and grants programs on a disciplinary basis. In addition, in the absence of a cultural plan, there is a "squeaky wheel" approach with respect to whom or what gets funded. This kind of reactive approach to facilities and organizational development does not serve the greater good in the long term. Sadly, this appears to be a problem in all areas of infrastructure, from built infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, to service infrastructure, health and education, to creative infrastructure within which can be positioned the arts and heritage.
Non-profit or For-Profit
The cultural sector in North America is characterized by its non-profit and/or charitable status. In Canada, societies come under provincial jurisdiction while charities are federally designated and regulated through the Canada Revenue Agency. They operate in the public trust and are eligible for funding from the three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal) as well as private and public foundations, corporations, and individual donors. Both societies and charities are governed by boards.
While the majority of cultural organizations are societies and/or charities, they are not the only cultural players in the community. Publishers, art galleries, clubs and other entities can be for profit. As various inventory models cited above have noted, inclusion of for-profit as well as non-profit enterprises adds diversity to the sector and multiplies the number of opportunities for citizens to engage with cultural products. Cultural revitalization projects have also made this very clear. An arts district may have a range of public facilities such as art galleries, museums and performance spaces but these tend to operate from 9 to 5 resulting in barren downtown areas when they are not open. It is only when you have the range of for-profit entities such as retail stores, restaurants, private galleries, and other activities that you have a culturally vital precinct. In addition, public performance venues, for example, the Citadel Theatre and the Winspear Centre, program based on a season—normally September to June. Revitalization projects have noted that for a downtown area to be vital, there can be no "black nights" (that is, "no performance" nights). This is not an effective use of the facility and it does not bring audiences into the downtown, who before or after going to a performance, go to restaurants, stores, and other amenities.
Cultural planning needs to look beyond funding regimes to help create a climate for the growth and maintenance of a range of cultural activities at both the facility and programming organization level. Non-profit and for-profit cultural providers should be in a symbiotic relationship and the City of Edmonton should facilitate this. A decision as simple as whether a restaurant is allowed to have an outdoor café and cost for this privilege can have an impact on street life and usage of neighbouring cultural facilities.
Edmonton's Cultural Facilities: Studies and Models
It is a reality that, generally speaking, cultural facilities in the past have not been built as a result of sound planning and needs assessments. The Alberta Jubilee Auditoria were a 50th anniversary project paid for by the Province of Alberta for the cities of Edmonton and Calgary. Their upgrading came through a Centennial Legacy funding program. The Royal Alberta Museum (formerly the Provincial Museum of Alberta) was a Canadian centenary project in 1967 spurred by federal funding. When the Northern Alberat Jubilee Auditorium (the "Jube") could no longer cope with the demands of its resident companies (the Edmonton Symphony, Edmonton Opera, and Alberta Ballet), touring companies, and local events, charitable societies were created to lead fundraising efforts. This resulted in the creation of the Winspear Centre. When the Fringe Festival grew to a size that it required some core, permanent facilities, the Arts Barns were born.
Is there a magic number of facilities that a city must have to be vital and to be able to meet the needs of programming organizations? The City of Calgary undertook an extensive study, The Current State of Cultural Spaces for the Arts in Calgary (Research Report, 28 March 2007). The study was led by Calgary Arts Development (the equivalent of the Edmonton Arts Council) and mandated by City Council. It was supported by the Urban Campus Initiative, University of Calgary, and The Calgary Foundation, which funded the research. In 2004, work was done on a Civic Arts Policy for Calgary and this revealed that a key concern for long-term development in the arts was space constraints. A companion document was produced titled "Reclaiming a Cultural Identity: Arts Spaces Strategy and Capital Plan." The research report is seen as providing a rationale for the recommendations in the companion document. The study compared Calgary with a range of other Canadian and American cities (i.e., Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Edmonton, Austin and Winnipeg) based on space for different performing and visual arts as well as festivals.
Interestingly enough, according to the Calgary report data:
- Edmonton is 6th with respect to total visual and performing arts spaces in selected cities;
- Edmonton is 5th in performing arts seats;
- Edmonton is 4th in number of performing arts spaces; and
- Edmonton is 7th in number of visual arts spaces.
The project also involved "Cultural Space Case Studies" from Canadian and US sources and identified the following types of spaces:
- Public space
- Incubator space
- Adaptive re-use and heritage space
- Live and work space
- Signature/iconic arts space
It is interesting to note that Randall Stout's Art Gallery of Alberta is noted as a future Iconic Arts Space. Tony Luppino, Director of the Art Gallery of Alberta and a consummate marketer, used the selection of an architect for the rebuilding of the AGA as a vehicle for engaging the whole community. He orchestrated a year of presentations. He tackled the Signature/Iconic Space notion head on with the architects' series and the presentations of the short-listed models for public review.
The Art Gallery of Alberta provides an important cultural planning model because it continued a dialogue about Edmonton's City Centre, and public and private expectations. This was begun by the Arts District envisioning process undertaken by the Edmonton Arts Council, created and mandated by the City of Edmonton as a result of the Mayor's Task Force on the Arts. The more recent envisioning Churchill Square project, which was an internal City of Edmonton process, covered much of the same ground but focused on Edmonton's iconic public space—the traditional civic square. In the end, the City did not accept in their entirety the recommendations of the community and organizational representatives, nor those of the highly-qualified consultant. City Council chose instead to limit the redesign elements based on fiscal conservatism. The result has been criticized by some for its lack of functionality and poor aesthetics; however, when the Square is programmed (mostly in the summer) by festivals, it is a vital and attractive place for citizens to gather, have fun, and enjoy various kinds of cultural expression. Sadly, because both the majority of City Councillors and citizens have not been convinced about the importance of the arts, heritage, and culture to the life of the City, any development in the cultural domain is seen as pitting specialized interests against those of the homeless, the unemployed, the disadvantaged, and others.
Of course, the City of Edmonton is not alone in this attitude. The Government of Alberta, after a lengthy process involving study and deliberation, provided funding support (matched in part by the City of Edmonton and the Government of Canada) for a revitalized and enhanced Royal Alberta Museum. In fact, this was announced at HRH Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Museum and its Royal designation during the Province's centennial year, 2005. This would have given the City of Edmonton its second iconic space and an institution of both provincial and national status. In the end, the Province defaulted on its commitment when building and labour costs escalated as a result of the booming economy. It can only be hoped that the Province, after temporarily putting on the brakes, provides the necessary funding for this legacy project so important to the preservation and interpretation of the natural and cultural heritage of the Province.
This raises another important point that the City of Edmonton has largely neglected until recently—the erosion of its profile as the capital city of Alberta and, therefore, legitimately not only the seat of government, but also the location of many provincial facilities and organizations. The erosion of Edmonton's power as the capital of Alberta has manifested itself in the decline of the Edmonton International Airport and also the importance of provincial facilities (again, the Royal Alberta Museum) and organizations. Many Edmonton supporters of the arts lament the Alberta Ballet Company leaving Edmonton to establish itself in Calgary, lured by a new home and funding support. This erosion has continued with the termination of the Contemporary Dance Program at Grant MacEwan College, which was a nationally renowned, unique program of studies that made Edmonton a hub for contemporary dance.
Based on demographic trends and contemporary notions of the requirements of "creative" and "world class" cities, the authors of the Calgary study recommend the development of additional cultural facilities and for a diverse distribution of arts spaces to serve growing communities. While acknowledging the importance of city centre civic cultural facilities, they recommend the creation of both small- and large-scale community arts spaces throughout the city of Calgary.
The authors make some recommendations with respect to "scaleability" that also apply to Edmonton. Rather than comparing Calgary to Toronto, they compare it to Vancouver (actually the GVRD, the Greater Vancouver Regional District). This is realistic since the cultural infrastructure of Toronto has developed over 200 years and western Canadian cities cannot equal this development at once. In fact, the comparison between Edmonton and Vancouver is more apt since Edmonton truly is a "regional district" with more than 20 municipalities/districts/counties in the capital region. In virtually no areas, let alone the arts, heritage, and culture, do they collaborate in meaningful way.
Other Canadian cities have struggled with the challenges of regional competition and collaboration, in particular, Toronto and Montreal. While this kind of cooperation is necessary to avoid duplication and proliferation of services, it cannot be mandated. Creating a super "metro"-style government does not appear to work because people are wedded to their notion of local government and civic identity. Having said this, Vancouver appears to have an effective body for dealing with such issues—the Greater Vancouver Regional District. In terms of the facilities measures that the Calgary study examined, this gives Vancouver a "critical mass" which is important not only to visitors to the community, but also cultural organizations. If a "Greater Edmonton Regional District" approach were taken to quantify arts and heritage facilities and organizations, Edmonton's ranking within the Calgary study would increase dramatically. In the end, Edmontonians attend performances at the Horizon Stage and people from St. Albert, Sherwood Park and other municipalities go to the Royal Alberta Museum, Art Gallery of Alberta, or the Edmonton Symphony.