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Under Construction: The State of Cultural Infrastructure in Canada

January 14, 200914 January 2009

Facilities / Cultural Infrastructure

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This substantial report from the Centre of Expertise on Culture and Communities notes that there is growing concern about the state of infrastructure in Canada, including cultural facilities. “Cultural, social, community and recreational facilities are aging and have deteriorated considerably.”

Cultural infrastructure can include “presentation space, creation/production space, live-work space, multi-functional space, preservation/collection space, education/training space, and office/ancillary space”. The report notes that cultural infrastructure built around Canada’s 1967 Centennial is approaching the end of its lifecycle. Heritage buildings, sometimes adapted for cultural purposes, require substantial upkeep. Challenges associated with aging buildings include “safety, comfort, acoustical properties, and 21st century production amenities”. Emerging multi-disciplinary arts practices can be challenging to present in older buildings.

The report indicates that “existing data [on cultural infrastructure] is fragmented, often tacit and embedded in practice, and research/data are at an early stage of development”. Despite the lack of data, the report notes that there appears to be an uneven distribution of cultural facilities among different Canadian municipalities. In many communities, there is a lack of affordable and sustainable rental spaces.

The report argues that there should be “greater attention to issues of lifecycle, productivity, the interaction of social and built infrastructure, and long-term sustainability”. Given the “generally uncoordinated and fragmented” nature of policy and funding frameworks, the report also argues that there is an urgent need to “recognize and plan for cultural infrastructure as an integral component of infrastructure for 21st-century cities and communities”.

The report’s 24 recommendations include calls for:

· the development of policies and plans for cultural infrastructure;

· the development of service standards for cultural facilities;

· the earmarking of a percentage of federal, provincial and municipal budgets for cultural infrastructure;

· more communication and research;

· more municipal and regional planning for cultural facilities;

· better quantitative information about the amount and state of cultural infrastructure;

· better qualitative information about local innovations; and

· toolkits for cultural infrastructure planning.

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