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Okanagan Arts

Culture and Community


An Ongoing Series of Lectures and Presentations that Celebrate the Creative Okanagan

Okanagan Institute
Thursday Express
5pm Thursdays
at the Bohemian Café

Click here for schedule
and information.


Arts Council of the Central Okanagan
Arts Council of the
Central Okanagan

100-1690 Water Street
Kelowna BC Canada V1Y 8T8
Email: Click Here.
Elke Lange, Executive Director
Telephone: 250.861-4123

Produced in association with the
Okanagan Institute


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Okanagan Arts: Summer 2008

Karin Wilson: The Art of Inspiration

It's summer and my head is spinning after month after month of sports talk. All year round I'm force-fed a diet of football, then hockey, then soccer, golf, tennis, and baseball. I'm so fed up I could spit.

In fact, I've noticed spitting is a big part of sports. On two recent occasions I had reason to gaze at sports from the comfort of a bar stool. In both instances, the TV camera captured a player spitting in what could only be called a "personal" moment. I'd rather watch a baby drool.

If I sound a bit choked, it's because I am. Even as a youngster I could see that somehow sports garnered far more attention (and money) than the arts. Sports holds such a fascination for the mainstream that the first time I was asked out on a date it was to a Canucks hockey game. Their inaugural season, I might add. I was still in grade school and didn't yet realize how true to form my reaction would be when I said "no", and hung up. Don't think I've ever been asked to a hockey game since.

But I can tell you I've seen more hockey fights than I care to, and yawned through baseball games (hum-now, baby, hum-now. Is that still the popular refrain?). Those experiences came courtesy after I landed my first journalism job as a sports reporter. My teacher consoled me by saying that it was on the sports pages that writers really cut their teeth. That's where the emotion was. That's where you had to be careful to avoid dancing with one too many clichés. That's where you had to become crafty in how to ask questions so that every story wasn't punctuated with the standard "we gave it 110 per cent".

It wouldn't be so bad if sports weren't so difficult to avoid. Unlike the arts, sports is everywhere. You can't even get through a CBC morning show without the obligatory sports report. And what's the point of it all anyway? By the time most of us reach the decrepit age

of 40, we've long since hung up our cleats and are literally watching from the sidelines. I can't help but think that the real hunger for sports is an insatiable appetite on the part of marketers to make sure they pay those outrageous player salaries ­ like Alex Rodriguez and his $28-million contract.

Meanwhile, arts gets thrashed and trashed. You're either no good, too good, or have great teeth. And it all starts in school.

Kids who are in sports are the "cool" kids. It was true when I was a teen and it's true today. The arts folks ­ they're the odd-balls, the touchy-feely crowd. One school in the Central Okanagan has spent the last few years experimenting with the impact of the arts. Eva Lowe, a special needs educator, wrote her master's thesis on the school's efforts and determined there was a cross-over effect that enriched the children's experience of school.

For the last three years the school has brought in a resident artist to work with children at Helen Gorman elementary ranging from pottery to music to theatre. In addition, principal John McMahon taught violin, guitar, accordion, and other teachers offered their own talents. How did they pay for this? A few creative grant applications, parent support, and a significant donation from Gormans Lumber, well known not only for its community support, but in particular, its support of the arts.

Lowe concluded that the Helen Gorman experience backed up research in the education field showing that arts makes a difference not only to children's understanding of themselves and those around them, but also improves their academic performance.

Some school districts have already recognized the value of the arts in a big way ­ offering up art academies as part of the public school system, much the same as Kelowna offers up a sports program.

At its most base level, sports and arts have a lot in common. They both entertain us, and grant us perspective on human achievement. But sports doesn't deserve the attention to the exclusion of art. We have countless businesses in our communities who are willing to fork over large sums of money to plaster their names on sports jerseys and inside arenas. Far fewer are the companies willing to do the same for the arts.

Sigrid-Ann Thors, president of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, says it's always been a fight to support the arts.

"Government is always asking what will happen if you don't get the funds. Will you disappear? Of course not. We've survived everything for millennium. Cave drawings still exist. Gregorian chant is still sung in churches. Sports is basically useless for most people in their adult life. But art carries you right through until you die."

And that dying part is critical because science is now showing that it's our connection to the arts that brings life to our later years. We might not be able to pitch a baseball, but if we enjoy the feel of a paintbrush on a canvas, the sound of the saxophone, or revel in The Phantom of the Opera, we've got a good chance of keeping our creative synapses, and a lot more, flowing.

Above all, art has to do with connecting with that inner part of ourselves that is bigger than anything else and somehow indefinable. It has to do with crafting a creative mind, rather than a competitive mind, and in this day and age it's the creative minds that we need to solve the world problems. Us versus them thinking has got us only so far. From here on in, working together is what makes things better. Even artists who work on their own, rather than as a team in the performing arts, know this. It takes a certain amount of inner strength to tear down your own work in order to create something new.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that sports shouldn't get the support it deserves. Only that arts deserves its own fair share ­ and something that reflects our long-term commitment to our development as a culture.

There is a tendency to consider sports a concrete objective experience, whereas art is subjective. Everyone knows when they've witnessed a good game. That's not so true for art. Yet in the long run, it's sports that is ephemeral. One hundred years from now Tiger Woods will be reduced to a name and a photograph, yet nearly 200 years since his death we still listen to Beethoven.

It's art that creates our cultural continuity; it's the arts that defines us and moves us forward; not how hard we hit the ball. History doesn't keep score. If we keep our eye focused only on the ball, we risk losing the big picture.

Karen Wilson is a freelance writer whose clients include CBC Radio, and numerous magazines. She is also the Associate Director and events coordinator of the Okanagan Institute.

Wild Blue Yonder at Thursday Express