Letter to the Editor: Public support for culture necessary and good

Dear Editor,

I'd like to respond to the comments made by reader Anne Matheson ("Too many words,"
Letters to the Editor, Vol. 5 No. 43, Nov. 15-21) concerning state funding for the arts.
When Ms. Matheson says "We believe that if an artist has it, the public will support him, and if he doesn't, no amount of public support will make him good," I can only assume that she is using the "royal 'we'. She is certainly not speaking for the Canadian people as a whole. Thanks to the Canada Council, a federally-funded body, as well as its many provincial counterparts, Canada has one of the highest levels of direct state support for the arts, and individual artists, in the Western world. In addition, in a myriad of other ways - the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Film Board, the Canadian Film Centre, numerous forms of tax relief - there is a great deal of indirect government support for the arts, and individual artists. Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, David Cronenberg... virtually all Canadian writers, composers, filmmakers, popular singers and other artists now famous throughout the world have benefitted at some point in their careers from these institutions and measures - and that includes the individuals mentioned by Ms. Matheson. In fact, the great contralto Maureen Forrester actually served as chairwoman of the Canada Council - certainly odd if, as implied by Ms. Matheson, she was no friend of state support for the arts.
One final point. You can bet your boots that the excellent opera, ballet, symphonic music and "some of the finest voices" that Ms. Matheson so rightly enjoys in Slovakia were all created with the help of state support - as is the case in most civilized countries.

Don Sparling
Brno, Czech Republic

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