This scene was part of Jody Beaudry's Joy of being Canadian decorative cake, which was on display at Arbor Gallery for CAPRAC's 150 Reasons to be Canadian exhibit. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

How do you measure art and culture in Prescott-Russell?

As with most Canada 150 celebrations, the Conseil des Arts Prescott-Russell Arts Council (CAPRAC) 150 Reasons to be Canadian art exhibit has come to a close.

According to Shanna Steals, general director of CAPRAC, the show was a “great success.” A year and a half in the making, it brought together 150 artists from across Prescott-Russell to showcase their work.

While the show was in its final weeks in late November, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council was discussing whether or not to take back the responsibilities of Tourisme Prescott-Russell Tourism (TPRT) and CAPRAC.

The Counties’ economic development department offered a report that said taking over would likely result in savings with fewer salaries to pay.

Ultimately, council decided to renew its agreement with TPRT, which is slated to get $173,000 next year.

However, there was no mention of CAPRAC.

Metrics measured

During the discussion of potentially taking over the two organizations, Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux said he’d been to CAPRAC’s general meeting and there were only about 30 people in the room. He took the low attendance to signify a lack of support.

“If the community itself is not interested in supporting these types of events, maybe that should be a signal to the United Counties that maybe we shouldn’t be supplying funds for these events,” said Leroux.

Though, an annual general meeting may not be the best metric against which to measure engagement.

During CAPRAC’s Canada 150 exhibit, Steals says nearly 1,000 people walked through the door. The organization’s next step is send out a survey to artists inquiring about artwork sold and other outcomes from participating in the project.

“We’ve been getting feedback saying (artists) have been invited to other shows,” says Steals.

According to Steals, there are no specific metrics CAPRAC is measured against. That makes evaluating its effectiveness a little tricky. 

My Canada by Francine Jolicoeur-Séguin of Wendover, also on display during the exhibit at Arbor Gallery. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

Primary and secondary benefits

Mark Greenwald is the president of Arbor Gallery in Vankleek Hill. He says the benefits of arts and culture are both primary and secondary. In CAPRAC’s case, he says, primary is looking at things like budget and where the organization is making money.

Currently, it still relies on money from the Counties but every year the amount decreases with the rest being made up through grants. Those grants for core operations are often the most difficult to come by, says Steals.

Secondary benefits, says Greenwald are looking at things like employment, which he says CAPRAC’s creates in a sense for local artists.

Steals says she doesn’t know exactly how much of a direct economic benefit is created through CAPRAC’s work.

These secondary benefits are have “all kinds of manifestations of value that have to do with improving the quality of life in communities that down the line will have a financial benefit,” says Greenwald.

Long-term balancing act

This isn’t to say the Counties’ don’t recognize that value. It recently approved its 2018 budget which included $58,300 going to CAPRAC.

Long-term, though, the goal is for CAPRAC to become an independent body and to do that requires constant re-evaluation ad striking an important balance: offering support to artists without overshadowing them.

“Their role is to support art and culture in the area, not necessarily be the deliverer,” says Greenwald.

Steals recognizes the line CAPRAC needs to toe.

 “To be able to work with artists is to create certain occasions so they can come together and find each other.”

Again, she offers the 150 Reasons to be Canadian as an example.

“It allowed us to do our mandate, which is to create that kind of support and mobilization.”

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