We all have the means to be sponsors!Viewpoint by Isabelle Hudon

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Added on 22 November 2007 in Viewpoints

Text signed by Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal,
published in Voir on November 22, 2007.

We all have the means to be sponsors!

Rendez-vous November 2007 – Montréal, cultural metropolis gave us a wonderful opportunity to rethink our relationship with culture.  And one of the key elements of that relationship is the participation of the private sector – both companies and individuals – in its financing.

Clearly, the private sector must do better in terms of the strength and scope of its support for culture.  But I think that in the same way that we are working hard to make culture and the arts more accessible to the general public, we should also make support for artists and cultural organizations more “accessible” to all.  Supporting the arts should not be seen as an exceptional gesture – in the sense of an “exception.”  In other words, philanthropy should not be perceived as an activity reserved only for major corporations and great patrons, but rather as a gesture within everyone's reach.

What I am suggesting is not that we should give beyond our means – far from it.  I simply think we should develop our “cultural reflexes,” generating a series of small gestures that can end up making a huge difference to our artists.  There are so many ways this can be done; we just have to consider – with boldness and originality – what our means will allow us to do.  And since this generosity can be expressed in many ways, we surely all have the means to be sponsors!

A culture of sponsorship
Developing cultural reflexes primarily means adopting a culture of sponsorship: including the arts in our philanthropic habits.  Do you need to be rich to do that?  Of course not.  You simply have to participate and, in so doing, motivate those around you to create a ripple effect.

I'm thinking, for example, of a couple of friends – cultural professionals who are not particularly wealthy, but who are passionate about art.  In their fifties, they created a scholarship fund for emerging artists.  In addition to donating a specific amount each month, they strongly encouraged their friends to do the same.  And now, every year, a scholarship bearing their name is presented to a young artist.

No contribution or donation is ever too small, and this applies to culture as well.  I'm always amazed to see what artists manage to do on a shoestring budget.  To me, this proves just how important small gestures can be and how, with just a bit more money, the feats they achieve could be even more astonishing.

Consuming culture
A second, equally important, aspect of the cultural reflex is the consumption of culture.  Artists need an audience as much as they need philanthropists.  I therefore think we should all make the effort to discover new art forms, encourage young artists, and participate as much as possible in cultural activities.

There's nothing complicated about it; you just need to discover your artistic passions – there's certainly no lack of choice – and share them with your friends and associates.  I like to suggest to entrepreneurs that they integrate culture in their business practices.  When it comes time to give business gifts, for example, I enjoy choosing pieces from local artists.  In addition to encouraging Montréal artisans, this allows me to share and promote the works of my favourite artists.  Just think about it: companies often buy tickets to sporting events, so why shouldn't they also buy tickets to artistic events?  Especially when you consider that this type of subscription is fully tax deductible.

Like health care and education, I believe culture is something that concerns us all.  It deserves our full support because it contributes to the well-being of society by giving it something invaluable: a collective identity. So I am challenging you, here and now, to sharpen your cultural reflexes and integrate art into your daily life – through both your consumer and your philanthropic habits.  And you know what?  In just this one area, why don't we all give ourselves permission to over-consume!