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Program will enhance Newfoundland culture, heritage

Status of Artist Act to get second reading in House of Assembly

You don’t have to look any further than social media to realize the impact arts and culture has on the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A video showing this unique cultural identity that has been trending over the past 24 hours — of people spontaneously bursting into song during a flight delay at an airport in Toronto — reveals the influence residents of this province have on the cultural fibre of this country.

“As I look around this room, I see those that create and perform or give artistic impression,” Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Christopher Mitchelmore said while announcing the Status of Artist Act, which he presented for second reading in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

Mitchelmore gathered with artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians to laud the benefits of the new act in the hopes each of these designations receives recognition, support and fair compensation for their efforts.

“ArtsNL has been pleased to work with the department in the development of the Status of Artist Act for a number of years,” said Stan Hill, chair of the ArtsNL board of directors.

“The minister’s 2015 mandate letter acknowledged that artists are essential to the preservation and progression of our cultural identity. Arts NL agrees with that statement while simultaneously recognizing the value of the arts sector as an important social and economic industry of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Hill said the round-table discussions that involved all the partners and feedback collected online helped develop the legislation, which formally recognizes the contribution the arts sector makes to the province.

The act will encourage everyone to pay artists fairly based on their respective industry standards. In addition, the government is committed to revitalizing its approach to supporting culture through a new cultural plan renewal to be completed by January 2019.

Mitchelmore said greater consultation with people from arts and heritage sectors will allow for new and innovative ways to support artists in the province.

“This (act) is a reinforcement of the fact government is committed to move the wheel,” Josh Sandu, half of the folk/roots duo Rube & Rake, said Tuesday.

“The pulse of Newfoundland and Labrador is in arts and culture,” he added after Rube & Rake performed two original numbers for those gathered at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

The other half of the duo knows the importance of gaining support and funding.

“ArtsNL gave us a travel grant, which was an integral part of getting our tour off the ground,” Andrew Laite said.

“Coming from B.C., the first thing I noticed was the support for the artists here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is nice to see,” Laite added.

Sharon Bala moved to this province in 2010, and at that time was not a writer, she explained before reading an excerpt from her third release, “The Boat People.”

Bala said she is surprised she is a writer, as there were not a lot of books in her home while she was growing up.

“I stand here, just steps away from the public library, my public library, a place that holds the crucial resources that helped make my career possible,” Bala said, noting she didn’t receive funding from this initiative.

“There are so many people make a living here. This is a fantastic program and it is a vibrant resource for us. I hope this means a commitment for government to continue to run these programs and things like libraries. It is important to keep them open for adults and children, who don’t know they are readers yet,” she added.

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