Prime Minister François Legault unveiled a cultural recovery plan on Monday, along with new government investments, aimed at “putting Quebec artists back to work” at the time of COVID-19.
“We want Quebecers to see their artists,” he said at a press conference inside the Fifth Hall at Place des Arts on Monday afternoon.
The cultural stimulus plan calls for total investments of $ 400 million over two years – some of which have already been announced. It increases the culture budget to $ 971 million in 2020-2021, 26% more than the previous year. There are 33.5 million to allow the music industry to meet the challenges created by new habits of distancing, but also the new listening habits of Quebecers, 5.9 million to revive festivals and artistic events and as well as $ 2.2 million to document the effects of the pandemic on the cultural environment and support real estate and equipment acquisition projects.
“I don’t know if I should say that, but I dare say it: if there is not enough, we will watch that! “Said Mr. Legault, stressing at the same time that” culture is the soul of the people of Quebec “.
“The money is there to pay you to create until you can get back to normal,” said Culture Minister Nathalie Roy before thanking the artists for their “patience”.
The president of the Union of artists, Sophie Prégent, the president of the Guild of Musicians of Quebec, Luc Fortin, as well as the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, present at the announcement, all agreed with a nod.
Nézet-Séguin said he was “encouraged” by the “excellent first step” made by the Legault government. “Speed is key. For us, what is important is to start working right away, “he added. That said, it will “be necessary,” in the eyes of the principal conductor of the Metropolitan Orchestra, “that there is something else” to keep the cultural milieu afloat during the pandemic.
Government assistance removes “pressure” from cultural sector, said Mme Prégent. “Generally speaking, [le plan de relance] meets expectations, “she said, relieved that” the turn “of the artists has finally come.
“Reinvention” and “digital”
Since the beginning of the crisis, on the side of the living arts, the use of two words has been sharply criticized: “reinvention” and “digital”. Many of them insisted: isn’t the artist’s characteristic of constantly reinventing himself? Isn’t that of the living arts precisely to exist in a non-digital way?
However, during the conference, the two scorn words were used. And the second is found on the ministry’s website, in the section reserved for calls for projects. Accompanied by the hashtag “# RelanceCultureQuébec”, the call, which will open on June 8, is divided into two sections. Namely: digital outreach and digital ambition.
The first aims to “multiply the initiatives for the creation, adaptation, dissemination and enhancement of online cultural events and content”. The second is intended to “increase the discoverability of Québec cultural content and products as well as their online consumption”, as well as to “increase the revenues related to their exploitation”. Among the eligibility criteria, we find: “be anchored in a digital approach”.
In both cases, the terms that stand out are: “online”.
“The exceptional current context puts the role of the Internet as an essential communication tool in the foreground,” the ministry’s website said.
“If the 250 million [d’argent frais annoncés] should only go to audiovisual and digital, this figure does not impress me at all. It even scares me, “reacts to this subject the playwright and artistic director of the Théâtre de Quat’Sous, Olivier Kemeid. Recall that he is the instigator of the open letter of the living arts sent to Minister Nathalie Roy last Tuesday. Having made a big splash, this missive was carried by some 30,000 supporting signatures.
“I see with satisfaction that culture has finally taken back its rights. And that it made up the bulk of a press briefing in the presence of the Prime Minister. It was time, ”he adds.
The fact remains that the director deplores “a certain confusion”. “We were bombarded with figures at the last minute. Among these: $ 91.5 million for film and television production; 50.9 million for the performing arts; 6.5 million for artists and writers.
The issue of tickets sold for works that have never been shown has also been dismissed. “There are still huge answers missing. Details of canceled contracts, suspended commitments. “
Just like what will happen once the Canadian Emergency Benefit ends on July 4 for those who requested it as soon as containment began in March.
What will happen to indoor sound technicians, lighting designers and other cultural workers who are not “artist-creators” as the minister understands?
Reopening of the rooms before a second wave
Nathalie Roy spoke on Monday of a reopening of places for cultural dissemination before the Fête nationale, on June 24.
“Obviously, this reopening will be done with a limited number of spectators, we understand, to respect social distancing,” warned the elected caquist. The government will lend a hand to the houses of theater, dance, music which will present performances in front of rooms which have been cleared due to the rules of Public Health, she immediately added. “We want to help because, since Public Health will only reopen a room at 50 or 60%, we are depriving it [le producteur] 100% of its capacity [et de ses revenus de billetterie], something has to be done. So, everything is on the table, under study, currently. “
Considering that “art treats the soul”, the national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, said he was ready to give his blessing to the reopening of theaters by the end of the month. “Nor should our artists get sick […], but yes, I think we need to reopen this element, which will allow us to recharge our batteries to face what could come a little later “, a second wave of COVID-19.
35 to 40 musicians could thus find themselves, two meters from each other, on the stage of the Maison symphonique, rather than the 150 usually present. “You shouldn’t expect to see the Symphony House packed with the 9e Symphony by Beethoven and the choirs on June 24. We are not there yet, “said Mr. Fortin after having read the draft” COVID-19 Guide “intended for the entertainment industry and produced by the Standards, Equity, Health Commission. and work safety.
“Me, I want to try it,” said maestro Nézet-Séguin, who will set aside his scores for Mahler in favor of those of more classical composers, such as Mozart, Haydn or Beethoven. “It’s worth listening to yourself in another way. It’s part of the creativity of the artists we talk about all the time, ”he added.
For his part, Olivier Kemeid is sorry that the question of repetition, in the sense of preparation, has not been considered. “We talked about June 24 for a possible reopening of the performance halls, but I was not even told that I could reopen my rehearsal hall. So we are going to … welcome the public before the artists? “