Concerns: Importance of the Arts in Society —

May 31, 2018. Laura Chesnik and local artist Susan Gold/Smith meet with Julie Tucker, Director of Public Programs and Advocacy and Laura Service, Outreach Coordinator and Gallery Manager for the Arts Council of Windsor and Region. The Council is the local spokesperson for Ontarians for the Arts, a newly formed group calling for increased investments in the arts and arts education. Artwork on display is part of a solo exhibition by Corinne Garrett.

The following are answers to questions submitted to independent candidate in Windsor-Tecumseh Laura Chesnik by the Arts Council of Windsor and Region.

Arts Council of Windsor and Region: What is your background in the arts?

Laura Chesnik: I am a teacher. Teachers must teach the arts as part of the Ontario curriculum. However having it in the curriculum does not ensure it is a right and that the youth are getting the arts education society requires.

One of my first teaching experiences was a temporary long-term position in a grade 7 class where the teacher I was replacing was a fine arts major. The quality of her students’ art and their confidence was amazing. This really showed me that to have the arts play the important role that they should in society, of giving expression to the human condition and inspiring people, it cannot be left up to chance or a family’s wealth or background. Having access to the arts and arts education is a right of humanity and governments must affirm this right. This means more than just writing it into the curriculum.

Everyone is not equal in ability. Ensuring arts education will not only raise the level of culture of the whole society and lead to the flourishing of the arts but allow those with definite abilities to thrive. This raises the importance of proper public funding for the arts and arts education so that professional artists can make their contribution to society and not have to go cap-in-hand or engage in the arts on a hobby basis.

Professional artists with proper working conditions will raise the level of the arts in society and contribute to society’s progress. By taking up this cause, artists are fighting for the well-being of everyone.

Today it is a big problem that the value artists contribute through their work is taken out of the economy in the form of profit by monopolies like Netflix, or those in the tech and gaming sector. The value realized from artists’ work is not re-invested into the society so that the level of arts and culture can be continuously raised for everyone.

Oodles of public funds are also directed towards companies in the name of “culture and heritage” while artists are left to fend for themselves. This reflects the idea that the only aim for society is to ensure the profits of the rich and artists should just serve this aim when they know it is not the way to go. A different aim for society is needed. An aim to meet the needs of the people for social and cultural well-being. This is what many artists are already fighting for.

ACWR: How do the arts fit into your vision for the region?

LC: My platform is Empower Yourself Now. Artists are leaders in our community in fighting for their rights and the rights of all. They are building artist-run spaces, organizing themselves to ensure they receive proper funding for their work and advocating for the important role the arts play in society. Mayworks Windsor and other projects like this are examples of how artists are speaking for themselves and putting forward their demands.

Many artists appreciate the idea of an independent candidate because they are fighting for the ability to do their art on their own terms rather than have to search for funding wherever they can find it and write grant proposals year after year, often under conditions where funding for the arts has been cut. In politics too we require our own independent voice to speak for ourselves. My campaign is part of the same fight of artists to speak for ourselves in this community.