Letter to the Editor

Regarding Arts & Culture Association of Kingsville

I have seen letters written from the BIA’s perspective and letters written from a political point of reference. I think it is time the town heard an artist’s perspective.

I live and breathe art. I am a widow supporting myself and my children on the proceeds of my art alone. This subject is of paramount importance to our lives. I am a muralist, a painter, a designer and an adult art instructor. I was a board member of the now-defunct ACAK, past Chair of the South Essex Arts Association, and am a member of several local and province-wide arts organizations. My purpose in getting involved with the ACAK was to advocate for local artists and to help steer the direction and formation of what the arts scene would eventually look like in Kingsville.

To say it is difficult to make a fair living as an artist in Kingsville would be an understatement. Although the good citizens of Kingsville have demonstrated a real love for arts and culture, as a small town, opportunities are limited. Much of the work I do is purchased by people in Windsor, London, and further afield. The market here differs greatly from Toronto and other large cities, and the depressed economy has made work scarce here. Art, although it enriches our quality of life, is not a necessity, and is the first thing to be “cut” when times are tight.

Having said that, there are opportunities for artists to obtain grant monies to fund their projects through municipalities, the Ontario Arts Council, the Windsor Endowment for the Arts, and other groups, but competition is stiff. More and more, money earmarked for the arts is looked at by other non arts groups as a way to accomplish their goals - just throw in an “arts component”, and Bob’s your uncle. Does any of this money make its way to the artists? You tell me! I donated this year alone, no fewer than 21 pieces, varying in value from $35-$300 to local charities, and YES - to ACAK (5 to be specific). I spent over $1200 just on entry fees to get into shows, fairs and galleries last year. Sales were slow, but I still plowed forward. Grants are received to put on shows and events, yet artists are still charged huge fees to participate, and inevitably asked for a “donation” in exchange for a tax receipt that never seems to come. Here’s a novel thought - PAY artists for their work and participation. We are professionals and this is our livelihood. Allow the monies to reach their intended destination - the artists.

BTW...what will happen to all the money raised by ACAK and previous incarnations of Kingsville arts groups, the grant money earmarked for the arts, the ACAK files and the donated items such as the computer, large-screen TV and printer that ACAK received? The BIA should not be allowed to retain all of that. I donated my art in good faith that it would be used to further arts and culture, not to rest in a BIA bank account. We are not a commodity to be used to get control of a building or to beautify an event. Why should everyone make money on us and from us, but us?

Appreciate what we bring to the table - we are business owners and entrepreneurs with great ideas. Ideas are what we do! We may look a little different, or view the world bit differently, but artists are authentic and true. You always know where you stand with us. Our originality and creativity is the real asset that we brought to the BIA. They admitted they knew nothing about art or the running of a gallery. It wasn’t a good mix from the start, for all of the reasons Dr. Brown-John stated in a recent letter in the Kingsville Reporter. I have been told that our sub-committee was formed to make it easier for the BIA to start up and eliminate some red tape. To me, that didn’t mean that individuals who admittedly “knew nothing about art” should micromanage and arbitrarily overturn decisions that were arrived at in a democratic fashion, through the proper channels, with proper BIA approval. I do not believe they were acting in the “spirit” of the agreement as it was struck.

I think ACAK's biggest sin was that our enthusiasm and competence threatened the BIA a little. We were able to do so much in such a short period of time that I think they felt like guests at their own table. Although every single thing we did was with prior knowledge and approval of the BIA, we grew too quickly. As they had a lack of understanding of our needs, going all the way back to the planning process of the building, even our smallest suggestions seemed monumentally difficult and bothersome, until they eliminated us entirely.

Rather than underestimating and undervaluing the “arts component,” and stating things like, “I just sort of envisioned some art hanging on the walls, and that’s it”, the BIA should have anticipated that the arts movement would have been larger than that.

So now we walk alone, without a home, without money, and set back at least a year, but we still live. We have no choice - we did nothing wrong. I will continue to hold my head high. After all, I only ventured into areas I had the right to, based on my education, years of experience and livelihood. I wouldn’t tell someone who say, owned a clothing store, how to run their business - I would be out of my element and out of order.

S. Baptista